Modal verbs

The verb is called modal if it serves to indicate modality, such as likelihood, ability, permission, request, capacity, suggestions, order and obligation, advice, etc. Modal verbs always come in pair with other verbs in infinitive or gerundive form. In this pair modal verb is auxiliary and the other one is main. Modal verbs have following characteristics:

  • They are all auxiliary verbs.
  • But in syntax they are considered the root verbs.
  • They cannot be inflected
  • They cannot take nonfinite form (infinitive, participle).
  • They can take infinitive only as their complement.
  • The same word can express different types of modality.

English modal verbs are can/could, may/might, must, shall/should, will/would, while some other verbs that also express modality are not considered modal (like have to, need, dare, expect, hope and many others).

Nûrlâm does not have truly modal verbs. As all of them can be inflected in tense, person and number, have participle forms and have non-modal use which is translated into English with other words. However five English modal verbs still can take only the infinitive as their complement in Nûrlâm too. Anyway they often used in Jussive or Subjunctive moods which do not have inflection in person and number.

The List of verbs expressing modality

Black Speech Etymology English Comments
close to truly modal verbs of English
dabh NL < Noldorin “dâf” < Etym. “DAB” let, allow, permit
gâkh AN, equivalent of Quenya “nai” let's, let/may it be so wishing, more like interjection
ilf NL < Mitanni Hurrian suffixes “-(i)lefa”, “-(o)lefa” of potential mood may, might probability of something to happen
kul LOS, compare with Quenya “cuilë” (life) be, am, are, is, will, would, shall, should, was, were
maug NL < Noldorin “bui” (I must), “baur” (need) < Etym. “MBAW” (compel, force, subject, oppress); compare with “mog” in name “Gothmog” must, ought to, have to, shall, should more like “must”;
used only with active infinitive; passive use (like “must be destroyed”) should be replaced with gerundive
pâsh LOS can, could, be able (to), be capable (of) ability to do something physically or with enough knowledge
express modality, but not modal in English
bolk RE need, have to active = “need”, perfect passive = “have to”
fad NL < Quenya “vanda” (oath, pledge, solemn promise) promise, pledge
furg NL < Quenya “þorya” + LOS “uf-” (frighten) < PN “Ufthak”, LOS “ufur-” (fear) fear in NL “frighten” is “ugl”
gashn LOS < HG < Valarin “akašân” (he says), compare with Quenya “axan” (law, rule, commandment) say, tell, order, command in many dialects words for “say” and “command” are the same even when word itself is different from other dialects, but for more specific meaning see “kazh”
gazd NL, combination of HG “gadhl” (to promise) < SV (but no source word given) with Noldorin “gwaedh”, “gwest” (oath, bond, troth) swear, vow, pledge, give/make oath, guarantee more obligatory promise, usually invoking some divine being or spirit, or by leaving a mortgage
has LOS, probably from Quenya “cesta” (to seek, search for, ask) or Qenya “iqista” (“request”, “please”, n) < “IQI” plead, please, beg, ask for, request
hiz NL < DS “hizi-”, “izhi-” want, will
irm NL < Gnomish “erth” (wish, n.), “irm” (wish, intention, n.), “irn” (desired, wished for, adj.), Quenya “írë” < Etym. “ID” (n) “desire, wish” wish, want
kazh ZB < Valarin “akašân” = “he (Eru) says” order, command see also “gashn”
khard NL < Sindarin “hartha-” hope
khûl HG (to question, ask) demand, request, ask for
thrâh NL < TK “thrak” (bring, hale, drag by force) suggest, propose, recommend, offer, advice add enforcing particle “thu-” to modify meaning to “insist”
ton NL < LOS “tonprakh” < SV (to suppose, presume) < LL “prakh” (to lure) suppose, assume, guess
bozd EH “bozd” (face, n) < GL “gwint”, compare with LOS “ozt-” < HORN “ozut-” (appear, seem) ​ seem modal meaning in expressions like “it seems”
brogb LOS < HG “like, favor, fancy” love, like but not in expression “I would like” (use “hiz” or “irm” in Subjunctive mood instead)
darb NL < Etym. “DAR” expect, wait
hûr LOS < TK PN “Mauhûr”, Noldorin “hûr” (vigour, fiery spirit) < Etym. “KHOR” dare
pant NL < Qenya “panya-” (to plan, arrange, intend, mean) + Quenya “tel-”, Sindarin “thel” (to intend); Gnomish “panta-” (to arrange, order, settle, set, put, place) intend, plan, be going to, be about to may be replaced with gerundive or suffix -uth of prospective aspect
taur NL < Summoning “taurzur” (dreams, n) dream dream about, not sleep
thak NL < Sindarin “thia-” < Etym. “THÊ” appear, seem, look (like, not “look at”) meaning depends on aspect: perfective = “appear”, partial = “seem”


Negative particle “nar” joins the modal verb, not the infinitive. For example, “I could not kill the dragon” = “Danarpâshuz dogut lûgum”.

modal_verbs.txt · Last modified: 2023/09/07 19:38 by