Modal verbs 1

Modal verbs are a special type of verb which are used to change the meaning of another verb. You use modal verbs in Polish and here is an example.

Często kupujesz mamie kwiaty.
You often buy your mother flowers.

Często powinieneś kupować mamie kwiaty.
You should often buy your mother flowers.

The verb powinien is a modal verb and it changes the meaning of the main verb kupować, which is always in the infinitive form. Powinien is used to show that ‚it is a good idea’ to buy your mother flowers.

You also use modal verbs to make negative sentences and questions. Notice that you normally make the modal verb into a negative or a question, not the main verb.

Nie powinieneś kupować mamie narzędzi.
You shouldn’t buy your mother tools.

Czy powinienem kupować mamie kwiaty?
Should I buy my mother flowers?

You can see from the examples that:

  1. Modal verbs are always used with another main verb, they change the meaning of the main verb.
  2. The main verb is always in the infinitive form.
  3. Modal verbs can be used to make negative sentences and questions, and are therefore a type of auxiliary verb.

Modal verbs can also often be used to show more than one meaning:

CAN

Possibility
He can be a bit lazy. – On może być/bywa czasem trochę leniwy.

Permission
Mother said that we can only go out at weekends. – Mama powiedziała, że   możemy/mamy pozwolenie wychodzić tylko w weekendy.

Ability
I can play the guitar. – Mogę/Umiem grać na guitarze.