Root modal uses of should, ought to and be supposed to in present-day English : from patterns and profiles to proficiency guidelines
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
English studies : a journal of English language and literature. - Amsterdam
, p. 562-595
University of Antwerp
Many non-native speakers of English find it hard to use modal auxiliaries correctly. As far as the so-called weak root modals of necessity are concerned, (learner) grammars fail to provide clear guidelines about the use of these modals in specific usage contexts. While differences between should and ought to are minimised, be supposed to tends to be marginalised and its semantic profile remains vague. A study of 1200 corpus examples reveals the overlapping and distinctive usage contexts of these auxiliaries and allows us to derive the parameters that play a role in their usage: source, discourse context and strength. The article offers precise definitions of each parameter and provides a clear semantic profile for each auxiliary, thus paving the way towards more useful proficiency guidelines in (learner) grammars.