Book of the Month
English Grammar: Modal Verbs

Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Author: J. McTaggart



Here we look at another book which is only available as an online digital product. In fact, this is not really a 'book' at all. It is only nine pages long. This seems very short indeed, until one realizes that this is an example of how digital technology is changing the way that we do things. What this author seems to be doing is selling a complete book, one chapter at a time. A look at the Kindle Store on Amazon shows at least half a dozen similar 'books' which cover other parts of English Grammar such as phrasal verbs, adjectives, conditionals and the perfect. If you add all these together you would get something close to a traditional English grammar book, at a price of around twenty dollars. So what we have here is an interesting idea. Instead of one book with all the grammar the author thinks that you need, here is a set of guides to different types of grammar and the student can pick the subjects he wants to study. It is rather like the difference between a restaurant with a fixed meal and one where you can choose the items you want from a menu. Another advantage is that, if you do not like this author's particular approach, you can stop with the one chapter without having purchased the rest of the book.

As the title shows, we chose to look at the guide to modal verbs. Modal verbs are used - always with another verb - to show things like probability or obligation. That is, how likely it is that something happened, or whether we need to do something, and how important it is that we should do it. The author explains the grammar clearly, and where more explanations are needed, he links to an internet site with more details. For example, he says that modal verbs do not have a participle form. The word 'participle' in the text is hyperlinked, so that tapping the link takes you to the Wikipedia online encyclopedia entry on the subject.
The explanations are clear, and the examples are good. However, while the treatment of modals of obligation shows how they are used, it does not explain when you should use one or the other. For example 'ought to' expresses a weaker obligation than 'have to' (you ought to be nicer to your parents, but you have to obey the law), but the text does not explain this. Also, there are no practice exercises with the text, and no illustrations of any kind. Basically, this is a nine-page downloadable explanation of the grammar of modal verbs, and that's it. Whether this is value for money is up to the individual. It seems fairly popular according to the amazon sales ranking, so many people seem to think that it is worth buying. However, if you are online you can easily find the same sort of material for free. In fact the same Wikipedia Grammar that this text links to has also a good section of its own on modal verbs.

Who is this book for? The text is most useful for someone who wants a quick, no-nonsense guide to modal verbs and is prepared to pay a little extra to have it as a downloaded, easily-reached guide on a digital reader. In fact the advantage of a Kindle reader is that because the text is stored in the cloud, it can be referred to on any web-enabled digital device. The same sort of information is stored for free on other websites, but this is a convenient, trustworthy guide.

Verdict: An unusual and interesting idea
Assessment 5/10

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