Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Modal verbs, can, could, may, might, must, ought, shall, should, will, would

27 million men, women, and children are trafficking victims at any given time.  Boko Haram is adding terrorism to the centuries old African slave trade and religious persecution by kidnapping Christian school girls.

“It ought to concern every person, because it’s a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at the social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it  endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name – modern slavery.” President Barack Obama, September 25, 2012

This would be a much stronger statement without all the "oughts."  For instance, "Slavery concerns every person because it is a debasement of our common humanity." A modal verb is an auxiliary verb which is used with another verb to talk about possibility, probability, permission, intention, etc. Sounds preachy and finger wagging without any action intended.

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