Unit 6.1

Modal infinitive periphrasis

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Introduction

A verbal periphrasis [perífrasis verbal] is a grammatical construction made up of two or more verbs that function as one sentence. In these cases, the personal auxiliary verb (conjugated) is joined to another non-personal auxiliary verb with neither gender nor number (it can be infinitive, gerund or participle).

Modal periphrases [perífrasis modales] are used to express obligation, possibility, necessity or other expressions of the speaker’s attitude.

Form

Modal infinitive periphrases are formed with the conjugated verb followed by the infinitive:

The main modal infinitive periphrases are:

  • poder + infinitive (modal verb);
  • tener que + infinitive;
  • hay que + infinitive.

Example

  • Puedo ir a clases de piano y de violín al mismo tiempo;
  • Tienes que enseñarme a cantar pop tan bien como tú;
  • Para bailar la salsa hay que tener un poco de gracia;
  • Son necesarias muchas horas de estudio para poder tocar la guitarra perfectamente;
  • Tenemos que leerle un cuento a nuestra sobrina antes de dormir;
  • Hay que activar el flash para hacer fotos por la noche.

Use

Modal periphrases are used to express obligation, possibility, necessity or inference of certainty or other expressions of the speaker’s attitude:

  • poder +infinitive describes ability or permission and also assumption;
  • tener que + infinitive expresses obligation, necessity or inference of what is taken for granted;
  • hay que + infinitive expresses obligation or necessity in a general, non-personalised way.

Summary

Modal periphrases are used to express obligation, possibility, necessity or other expressions of the speaker’s attitude.

In Spanish, the main modal infinitive periphrases are:

  • poder + infinitive (modal verb);
  • tener que + infinitive;
  • hay que + infinitive

For example:
— «Me gustaría poder hablar inglés» = after the modal poder  the verb hablar goes in the infinitive;

— «Para ser abogada tienes que estudiar derecho» = after tener que the verb estudiar  goes in the infinitive;

— «Hay que estudiar derecho para ser abogado» = after hay que the verb estudiar goes in the infinitive.

Check the contents of the {Form} section. Then move on the {Example} sections, which shows you the usage in context.

Related

Modal periphrases are used to express obligation, possibility, necessity or other expressions of the speaker’s attitude. More information can be found in Verbal Periphrases. Other verbal periphrases are ir a + infinitive, tener que + infinitive and estar + gerund.

 

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