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EnglishTeacher79 Nov 18th, 2008 10:59 am

Two base verbs after a modal
In a phrase like "may help shed light on" or "may help increase...", you have the modal may and then two base verbs - help and shed/increase.

I was asking my students about what tense "shed" was - whether base form or past/present tense. Of course it's base form. But I was going to explain to my students that it's base form because the modal "may" is used - the second verb after a modal is always in base form. However, I realized that "help" is the second verb and shed is the third! I've never come across such a situation. Are there normally two base verbs after modals? Is there a rule that I can explain to my students because I'm not sure how to explain it.


susan53 Nov 18th, 2008 05:13 pm

Re: Two base verbs after a modal
I think you're a bit confused here .. take it step by step .

a) first of all the final verb phrase is to shed light on, meaning to throw light on. So shed here is the infinitive or base form - which is by chance unchangeable in the past (2nd form) and past participle (3rd form) - shed, shed, shed - similar to put, put, put

b) then you have the verb to help which can be followed by two constructions : 1) the infinitive with to : It helps to shed light on ... or 2) the bare infinitive : it helps shed light on ...

c) and then you have may, which must be followed by the infinitive - in this case help : it may help ..

so : put it all together and you have ...

may + infinitive (ie help)
help + infinitive (ie shed)
may help shed

Compare it with other examples :

This helps to clarify the problem or This helps clarify the problem becomes This may help to clarify the problem or This may help clarify the problem (I hope!)

The form clarify has nothing to do with may - it's dependent on help - and certainly isn't a third form (ie past participle). It's the infinitive.

I hope that helps to shed light on the structure :)

EnglishTeacher79 Nov 18th, 2008 08:15 pm

Re: Two base verbs after a modal
Hi Susan,

Thanks. I think I've learned that a modal is always followed by a base verb that I forgot how often you can actually use the constructions (verb + verb) after a modal as per normal.

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