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The nominative absolute participial construction with participle II


The construction consists of the nominal element (a noun in the common case or a pronoun in the nominative case) and participle II which form a syntactical complex, the nominal element and the participle being in subject-predicate relation. The preparation completed, we started off.

The nominative absolute participial construction with participle being has the syntactical function of a detached adverbial modifier of attendant circumstances (a), manner (b), time (c), reason (d), condition (e).


a) The next day I observed you - myself unseen - for half an hour.

She was smoking now, her eyes narrowed thoughtfully.


b) He sat on the sofa, his legs crossed.


c) The duster refolded and restored, he threw his legs across the saddle. “Give it to Harriet, please,” was

then the direction, “and she can put it away.” This said, he turned and fixed his eyes on Mrs. Bretton.


d) We began to talk, but my attention distracted by my surroundings, I took small notice of him.


e) He was a gentleman, but he was passionate, the cup once sipped, would he consent to put it down?


The prepositional absolute construction with participle II.


This construction differs from the discussed above in that it is introduced by the preposition withand its nominal element is hardly ever presented by a pronoun; it is more closely related to the predicate verb and is seldom set off by a comma.


She went on reading with her eyes fixed on the pages of the book.

It is unhealthy to sleep with the windows shut.


The main syntactical function of the construction is that of an adverbial modifier of manner or attendant circumstances.

An additional idea of time, reason, or condition may be prompted by the context, as in: I can’t walk with my leg broken (reason).




§ 153. Modal verbs, unlike other verbs, do not denote actions to states, but only show the attitude of the speaker towards the action expressed by the infinitive in combination with which they form compound modal predicates. Thus modal verbs may show that the action (or state, or process, or quality) is viewed by the speaker as possible, obligatory, doubtful, certain, permissible, advisable, requested, prohibited, ordered, etc. Modal verbs occur only with the infinitive. This or that meaning is to a great degree determined by the comminicative type of the sentence and the form of the infinitive.

There are 12 modal verbs in English. They are: can, may, must, should ought, shall, will, would, need, dare, to be, to have (to have got).The latter two are modal only in one of their meanings.

Ten of them (that is, all but to be and to have) are also called defective or anomalous verbs as they lack some features characteristic of other verbs, that is:


1) they do not take -s in the third person singular;

2) they have no verbals, so they have no analytical forms;

3) they have (except for can and may) only one form and no past tense;

4) they are followed (except for ought) by a bare infinitive (that is by the infinitive without the particle to);

5) they need no auxiliary to build up the interrogative and negative forms.


All modal verbs have 2 negative forms, full and contracted.


full form may not must not would not should not need not contracted form mayn’t mustn’t wouldn’t shouldn’t needn’t


Some of them have peculiarities both in spelling and pronunciation:


cannot shall not will not Can’t [ka:nt] Shan’t [∫a:nt] Won’t [wount]




§ 154.This modal verb has two forms: can - for the present tense and could - for the past tense and for the subjunctive mood.


I can’t dance now but I could when I was young.

I wish I could go with you.


I. Can followed by the non-perfect common aspect infinitive expresses:


1. Physical and mental ability or capacity.


The notion of ability is also expressed by “to be able to”.

Mary can speak English quite well but she can’t write it at all (can = to be able, to know how to...).

John can keep a secret if he wants to (can = to be capable of).

I can drive a car = I know how to...

I couldn’t understand him when he spoke very fast (= was unable to, was incapable of...).

He could (was able to) speak English very well when he was twelve.


The meaning of ability is expressed only by “to be able to” when the reference is to the future, as can, having no infinitive, has no future tense form.


Soon he will be able to speak English quite fluently.


Can is interchangeable with to be able to when it denotes mere capacity,


I couldn’t/was not able to do that new job; it was too difficult.

This man could/was able to cure all diseases.


But only to be able to is used to express attainment or achievement of something through some capacity. Thus to be able to often combines the idea of “ability” and “achievement”. In this case was able to means “managed to” or “succeeded in”, and could is impossible.


The fire brigade was able (succeeded in putting, managed) to put out the fire before it destroyed the other

buildings. Пожарные су­мели, им удалось ...

I was able to go to the mountains yesterday as I had a day off (I could and went).

I was able to finish my work in an hour (I managed, I could and did it).


2. Possibility.


a) possibility due to circumstances:


Anybody can make a mistake. Ошибаться может каждый.

You can hardly blame him for that. Вряд ли можно его за это винить.

I couldn’t take your coat without paying you for it.


b) possibility due to the existing rules of laws:


In old days a man could be sentenced to death for a small crime. В старые времена можно было

приговорить человека к смерти за небольшое преступление.


The Lower House alone can initiate financial measures. Только Палата представителей может

выносить на рассмотрение финансовые вопросы.


c) possibility of the idea (the so-called “theoretical” possibility):


The railways can be improved. (It is possible for the railways to be improved, as they are not yet



In general statements of possibility can has roughly the same meaning as “sometimes”.


The sea can be rough. = The sea is sometimes rough. Mope иногда бывает бурным.


Can is generally used in questions about possibility and in statements about impossibility.


Can this be true? (Is it possible that this is true?) Неужели это правда?

This can’t be true. (It is impossible that this is true.)


3. Permission.


Can we go home, Miss? Можно идти домой, мисс?

Не can go now. Теперь он может идти.

The teacher said we could go home. Учитель разрешил нам идти домой.


Can is now more common than may (or might) to express the idea permission.


4. Prohibition (it is found only with the negative form of the modal verb, as prohibition may be understood as the negation of permission - not to be allowed to...). It corresponds to the Russian нельзя, не надо.


You can’t cross the street here. Здесь нельзя переходить улицу.

You can’t touch the exhibits in a museum (it is not allowed).

- Can we stay here? - No, I’m afraid you can’t. (It’s not allowed.)


5. Request.


Can you hold on a minute, please?

Can I have some water?

Can you put the meat in salted water?


Could suggests a greater degree of politeness:


Could you come again tomorrow?


II. Can followed by any form of the infinitive may express:


1. Strong doubt, improbability, incredulity.This meaning occurs only with the negative form of the modal verb + perfect infinitive, continuous infinitive, or be.


He can’t be working at this time (it’s impossible that he is working...) He can’t have seen it (it’s impossible that he saw it). He can’t be there. - He может быть, чтобы он работал сейчас.   - He может быть, чтобы он видел это. - He может быть, чтобы он был там.


Could is used instead of can to express greater doubt. Thus the difference between can and could is in the degree of expressiveness, could showing a greater degree of doubt or incredulity. The time-reference is indicated not by the form of the verb but by that of the infinitive.


He Can’t Couldn’t be so old. - He может быть, что он так стар.  
Не Can’t Couldn’t be telling the truth. - не может быть, что он говорит правду.  
He Can’t Couldn’t have told the truth. - не может быть, чтобы он сказал правду.  


2. Surprise, when can/could is used in questions. It corresponds to the Russian неужели ...


Can it be so late as all that? Неужели уже так поздно?


То refer the action to the past a perfect infinitive is used.


Could he have known her before? Неужели он знал ее раньше?

Could he have been telling her the truth?

Can (could) he have let you down?


The verb can expressing surprise is not used in the negative form.


Therefore the Russian negative questions of the type - нeyжeли он не ... is translated into English in different ways:


a) by complex sentences:


Can if be that you haven’t seen him?

Неужели вы не видели его?


b) by different lexical means:


Can you have failedto see him?

Неужели вы не видели его?

Can you dislikethe book?

Неужели вам не нравится эта книга?

Can nobodyhave seen him?

Неужели никто не видел его?

Can he have neverwritten that letter?

Неужели он так и не написал письмо?


3. Reproach, implying that a person should have done something, or behaved in a certain way, but didn’t do it. This meaning is found only with the form could.


You could at least have met me at the station, couldn’t you?


In this sense could is interchangeable with might.


4. Purpose. This meaning occurs only with the form could in clauses of purpose.


I wrote down the telephone number so that I could remember it.


Note some set expressions with the modal verb can:


Cannot/can’t help doing smth. - He могу не делать что-то

When I saw him I couldn’t help laughing. - Когда я увидел его, я не мог не засмеяться.


Cannot/can’t but do smth. - не могу не ...

I cannot but suggest... - Я не могу не предложить ...

We cannot but hope he is right. - Нам остается только надеяться, что... (не можем не надеяться...)


One cannot but wonder - нельзя не задуматься

as can be - an intensifying expression

They are as pleased as can be. - Они очень (страшно) довольны.

It’s as ugly as can be. - Это необычайно уродливо (трудно себе представить что-либо более





§ 155.This modal verb has two forms: mayfor the present tense and might for the past and as the subjunctive mood form. Thus the form might is used:


a) in indirect speech according to the rules of the sequence of tenses (though the verb could is preferable in this case).


He told me that I might go.

The librarian told the man that he might take the book home.


b) in some syntactical patterns requiring the subjunctive mood forms:


However hard he might (or may) try, he will never manage to do the same.

I’ve brought you the book so that you may write your paper.


I. May followed by the non-perfect common infinitive expresses:


1. Permission. In this usage it expresses the meaning to have permis­sion to, to be allowed to, to be permitted to.


You may go now (you are allowed to go).

May we leave this with you? (Are we allowed to...? Is it all right if we leave it here?)


In polite requests for permission might is used.


Might I use your telephone, please?

I wonder if I might borrow your book.


Can is now more common than may or might to express informally the idea of permission, but may is often used when talking of ourselves.


May/might I help you?


When the action was permitted and performed the expression was allowed to is preferable.


When translating the story we were allowed to use a dictionary, so I took a Longman new dictionary.


2. Possibility of the fact (the so-called “factual possibility”).This meaning occurs only in affirmative sentences.


You may find all the books you want in the National Library. (It is possible that you will find...)

The railways may be improved. (It is possible that the railways will be improved.)


The above sentence could suggest that there are definite plans for improvement.


May expressing possibility is avoided in questions and in negative sentences, instead can is used.


3. Prohibition(only with the negative form of the modal verb).


You may not go swimming. (You are not allowed to ...) - He смей...

You may not enter the room until I say so. - He смей...


The contracted form mayn’t is also very rare.

There are other ways of expressing the idea of prohibition which are more common. They are mustn’t, can’t, and don’t. Mustn’t and can’t are often found in negative answers to express prohibition instead of may not.


II. May (might) followed by any form of the infinitive denotes:


1. Supposition, uncertainty. May in this sense is synonymous with perhaps or maybe, and occurs in affirmative and negative statements.


This news is so strange that you may not believe it. (Perhaps you won’t believe it.)

He may come or he may not. (Может быть, он придет, а может и нет.)

She may not know that you are here. (Perhaps she doesn’t know that you are here.)

Why hasn’t he come? He may have been hurt. (Perhaps he has been hurt. We still don’t know whether he

has or has not.)

Why aren’t you at the station? They may be arriving.


The non-perfect infinitive indicates reference to the present or fu­ture, that is, it expresses suppositionor uncertainty about a present or future action.


They may arrive tonight or tomorrow.


The perfect infinitive indicates reference to the past.

May (might) in the sense of supposition or uncertainty is not used in questions, instead some other means are used: Is it (he) likely ... ? or Do you think ... ?


Is Mary likely to arrive tonight?

Do you think he has already come?

Note:   The difference between the meaning of the negative forms of can and may:
He may not be ill.= It is possible that he isn’t ill. He may not be working. = It is possible that he isn’t working. He can’t be ill. = It is not possible that he is ill. He can’t be working. = It is impossible that he is working.

Can + negation in these sentences denotes doubt, incredulity on the part of the speaker, whereas may expresses uncertainty about a negation of some fact.


2. Reproach. This meaning is found only in positive statements and only with the form might as it is a reproach made about something that has not been done and thus implies some unfulfilled action.


You might at least offer to help.


In combination with the perfect infinitive it renders irritation (annoyance)that the action was not carried out.


You might have opened the door for me.


3. May/might partly loses its meaning when used in certain sentence patterns and is in such cases a quasi-subjunctive auxiliary (see § 80):


a) in clauses of purpose:


Sit here so that I may see your face more clearly.

He died so that others might live.


b) in clauses of concession:


Try as he may he will never be top of his class.

However hard he might try, he never managed it.


c) in object, predicative and appositive clauses after verbs or nouns expressing hope, wish, fear:


The doctor has fears that she may not live much longer.

The prisoner had hopes that he might be set free.


Here are some expressions with the modal verb may/might:

I may/might as well + infinitive — is a very mild and unemphatic way of expressing an intention.


I may as well take you with me.


It can be used with other persons to suggest or recommend an action.


You may as well give him the letter.


Might just as well means “it would be equally good to” and is used to suggest alternative actions. Though the meaning is basically the same as in three previous sentences, “just” makes the sentence more emphatic.


- I’ll go on Monday by a slow train.

- You might just as well wait till Tuesday and go by the fast one.


- I’ll do it at six.

- That’s far too late. You might just as well not do it at all.




§ 156. The modal verb must has only one form for the present tense. It may also be used in reported speech, after the verb in the past tense in the principal clause.


I knew I must go there too.


I. Must followed by the non-perfect common infinitive may express:


1. Immediate obligation or necessity, or an obligation referring to the future. This meaning occurs in positive statements and questions.


We must begin before five, or we shan’t finish in time for our supper.

He must move the furniture himself. I can’t help him.

Must you really go so soon?


In this sense the verb must corresponds to the Russian надо, нужно, должен.


Do it if you must (если нужно, делайте).

I must go now (мне нужно идти).


Must expresses obligation or compulsion from the speaker’s viewpoint (unlike ‘have to’, which involves some other authority than the speaker, such as official regulations, etc.).


You must be back at 2 o’clock. I want you to do some cooking.

You must call me Sir (I like it that way).


Obligations expressed by must refer to the present or future, in reported speech they may refer to the past.


James said we must invite the Stewarts to dinner.


Future obligations can be made more precise with the future indefinite of the verb have to.


I’ll have to read it again.

We shall have to give you a new copy of the book.


Since the negative form of must denotes a negative obligation or sometimes prohibition (sec item 2), it cannot express absence of necessity which is expressed by needn’t.


- Must I go? - No, you needn’t, if you don’t want to.


Must is used interchangeably with to be to for instructions, notices, or orders.


Passangers must cross the lines by the footbridge (the railway company instructs them to).

Applications for admission to the Students’ Room of the Department of Manuscripts must be

accompanied by a letter of recommendation.

This card must be surrendered with your room key on vacating Astor College.

All rooms must be vacated by 11 a.m. and the keys handed to the porter on the day of departure.

Guests must be out of the building by midnight.


In all the above cases must is preferable.


With a 2nd person subject must expresses an obligation which has the same effect as a command.


You must do as you are told.

You must be careful.

You must go now. I want to go to bed.

You must change your shoes, I won’t have you in here with muddy feet.


2. Prohibition. Such sentences are sometimes negative commands, corresponding to the Russian sentences with нельзя, не разрешается.


The girl mustn’t go home alone. It’s very late. Cars must not be parked in front of this gate. You mustn’t do that! You mustn’t come into the ward, it’s against the rules. - Девочке нельзя идти домой одной.   - He разрешается оставлять машины перед воротами. - He делайте этого! - Нельзя заходить в палату, это запрещено.  


3. Invitations.


You must come and see me sometime. - Вы обязательно должны навестить меня как-нибудь.

You must come and have dinner with us.

You must come and see our picture gallery.


This use of must renders emphasis to the sentence.


II. When combined with any form of the infinitive must expresses probability, near certainty. It has the same meaning as the modal words probably, evidently. In this sense must occurs only in positive statements and corresponds to the Russian modal words вероятно, должно быть.


He must be mad (it seems certain that he is mad).

He must be lonely (probably he is lonely).


With verbs which admit of the continuous aspect, the continuous infinitive should be used for reference to the present.


Where’s Nell? She must be sightseeing now (she is probably sightseeing).

John isn’t here. He must be working in the garden.

Jane is busy. She must be packing for the trip.


The perfect infinitive indicates a past action.

Did you always live with your father? You must have led quite a busy social life (evidently you led...).


The perfect continuous infinitive indicates the duration of the past action, a process in the past.


It must have been raining when you left (evidently it was raining when you left).

They must have been working all the lime. They look very tired (evidently they have been working all the



Must expressing probability is not used:


a) with reference to the future. Instead of the modal verb the adverbs probably and evidently are used.


He will probably feel lonely.


b) in negative and interrogative forms. There are several ways of expressing the negative meaning of probability in such sentences: by negative affixes, or negative pronouns, or lexically.


1. You must have misunderstood me.

2. They must have been inattentive.

3. She must have failed to recognize you.

4. He must have had no chance to warn you.

5. The letter must have never reached them.

6. The letter must have been left unanswered.

7. No one must have seen him there.

8 . He must be quite unaware of the circumstances.


Besides the above mentioned shades of meaning, sometimes accompanied by emphasis, the modal verb must may be used solely for the sake of emphasis. In this case must is not translated into Russian, it merely emphasises some action or idea.


Just when we were ready to go away for the holidays, the baby must catch measles (ребенок вдруг

заболел корью, ребенок возьми и заболей корью).

Of course after I gave her my advice she must go and do the opposites (... она вдруг пойди и сделай


As we were starting what must he do but cut his finger (... он возьми да и порежь себе палец).

At a time when everybody is in bed he must turn on the wireless (... он вдруг включает приемник).


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