What is a modal verb?

The words "modal verbs" at the top. Then below are the following words set in white circles against a pink background: may, should, will, must, can, would, might.

These are examples of modal verbs.

Modal verbs are verbs used to express ability, obligation, permission, or possibility. Common modal verbs include can, might, may, must, will, would, and should. They are a type of auxiliary verb (otherwise known as a “helping verb”), which means they have to be paired with a main verb to work. For example, in the sentence “I can park the car here,” park is the main verb and can is the modal verb paired with it. Here are some examples of modal verbs in action:

  • Can can mean either to express ability or to ask permission.
    • I can go to the store later.
    • Can I use the car today?
  • May can mean either to express possibility or to ask permission.
    • I may talk to him tomorrow.
    • May I go to the bathroom?
  • Must can mean either to express obligation or to express strong belief.
    • She must tell the truth.
    • He must be almost finished with the project by now.
  • Should means to give advice.
    • He should buy the red sweater.
  • Would means to request or offer, and it can also be used in if sentences.
    • Would you mind getting the door for me?
    • If I were her, I would.

Modal verbs don’t change their form, and they have no infinitive (the verb with the word “to” in front of it, as in to sleep or to walk) or participle (a form of a verb similar to an adjective or adverb that functions as an adjective, as in swimming or sitting).

Maud Grauer is an editor and content creator for Dot and Dash, LLC.  

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Peek, peak, and pique

image of a keyhole and the word

Peek through a keyhole; peak of a mountain; pique someone’s interest;

The words peek, peak, and pique often get confused. It’s easy to see why. For one, they’re homonyms, which means they sound alike but have different meanings. They also all can be both nouns and verbs.

To help you remember the differences between peek, peak, and pique, let’s look at their definitions and some examples. Then you can test your understanding with a quiz at the end of the post.

peek (noun) means a glance
Example: One peek at the gift table and Virginia knew which one was from her grandma.

peek (verb) means 1) to glance at something; or 2) to look out through a hiding place (such as a crack).
Examples: Virginia peeked quickly at the papers on her rival’s desk.
I discovered Virginia peeking through the crack of the door.

peak (noun) means 1) the point at the top of a hill or mountain; or 2) the highest level
Examples: It took Virginia four days to climb to the peak of the mountain.
Virginia thought her vacation had reached its peak, but then she saw a mountain lion do the foxtrot.

peak (verb) means to reach a maximum (of capacity, value, or activity)
Example: Virginia felt her life peaked when she won her eighth-grade spelling bee.

 

 

pique (noun) means resentment, a wound of pride
Example: Virginia felt pique when her best friend got a better grade than her.

pique (verb) means to excite in interest or curiosity
Example: When Virginia’s friend brought up the subject of physics, her interest piqued.

Quiz
Test your skills with this quiz. Fill in the blank with either peek, peak, or pique.

  1. Virginia reached the _______ of her high school career when she beat her math teacher at chess.
  2. Virginia had a _______ at the test before it was time to start.
  3.  “Let me _______ your curiosity,” Virgnia said as she pulled a magic box from her purse.
  4.  Virginia painted the _______ of the mountain for her art class.
  5.  Virginia _______ed, in terms of accomplishments, when she won the first prize in debate class.
  6. Virginia’s _______ was in full force when she saw her friend take the stage after her.
  7. Virginia hid behind a big rock, and then she _______ed around it.
  8. From her _______ing, Virginia knew the secret her brother hid in his closet.

1. peak (noun) 2. peek (noun) 3. pique (verb) 4. peak (noun) 5. peak (verb) 6. pique (noun) 7. peek (verb) 8. peek (noun)

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Bald-Faced, Bold-Faced, or Barefaced Lie?

Woman's mouth and the text: Lies! Lies! Lies!

What do you call a major lie, one told with total disregard for anyone who might be affected by it? You’ve got a few options. You could call it a barefaced lie, a bald-faced lie, or a bold-faced lie. All of these are technically correct and mean basically the same thing, but bald-faced is, according to Merriam-Webster, “the preferred term in published, edited text.”

Barefaced has been used to describe lies and liars since the 19th century. Bald-faced, meanwhile, emerged in the mid-20th century. Both terms mean an open, unconcealed lie told with no concern for the truth and with an additional implication of rudeness.

The term bold-faced has been around since the 16th century, but it started to be used in this context around the end of the 20th century. It’s possible that the emergence of bold-faced as a modifier for lies and liars corresponds to the increase in the use of bold-faced text during this period.

Barefaced, bald-faced, and bold-faced are all grammatically correct ways to describe lies. Most people don’t use barefaced anymore, and of the remaining two options, the preferred, professional term is bald-faced. Now that’s the truth!

 

This post was written by Maud Grauer. She is a content creator for Dot and Dash. You can read more of her writing on the Dot and Dash blog: www.dotanddashllc.com/blog

You can email Maud at Maud@dotanddashllc.com.

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What is the plural of “no” and “yes”?

What's the plural of "yes" and "no"?

 

Wondering how to spell the plural of no and yes? The answer may not be what you think.

The plural of no is noes.

The vote got thirteen noes.
How many noes will I get before I get a yes?
I heard noes from both candidates

The plural of yes is yeses.

The vote got thirteen yeses.
The yeses outnumbered the noes.
Three yeses later, and the idea is becoming a reality.

Note: Sometimes there is more than one correct way to spell a word. (Yes, I know. I see your jaw dropping.) This is true with yes. Merriam-Webster says you can also spell yeses as yesses and noes as nos.

Example: Yesses are often better than nos.

 

 

Apostrophes and plurals
You may see them spelled as no’s and yes’s. This is incorrect. Remember: apostrophes are almost never used to make plurals.

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and founder of Dot and Dash, an author-services company. To see how she can help you with your writing project, email her at Erin@dotanddashllc.com.

 
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Is “data” singular or plural?

 

Man with laptop. Word bubble says: Hey, girl. Let's check out some data together

Buckle up, folks. People have strong feelings about whether to treat “data” as a singular or plural noun. And we are going to talk all about it today.

Technically, “datum” is the singular version, and “data” is the plural version.

This means—technically—“data” takes a plural version of a verb.

Examples:

The data are correct.
The data show these numbers.
The data illustrate the findings.

But . . . these days, most people treat “data” as if it were singular. So they use a singular verb with it.

Examples:

The data is correct.
The data shows these numbers.
The data illustrates the findings.

 

 

This is where you have to make a decision. Are you going to be a stickler and fight for “data” as a plural, or are you going to buckle under peer pressure and treat it as singular?

You are entitled to your own thoughts about this. But guess what? Language does change. It evolves. For instance, we don’t use “decimate” to mean “to destroy by one tenth” anymore, right? Or what about “nice”? Once upon a time four centuries ago, it meant “foolish and ignorant.” And once upon a time seven centuries ago, “girl” meant a “small child,” whether they were female or male.

So if you want to treat “data” as a singular noun, go for it. It’s true that the times they are a-changing. And if you want to treat “data” as plural, go for it, too. You’re not incorrect, but know you may find people who think you are.

Erin Servais is a book editor, author coach, and founder of Dot and Dash LLC, an author-services company. She takes authors from the plotting and planning phase, all the way through editing and marketing. To learn more, check out her website: www.dotanddashllc.com. You can also email her at Erin@dotanddashllc.com.

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