Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Flying in the face of authority

Modal verbs of Obligation

There are so many more rules to remember when you fly nowadays – you mustn’t take liquids, you have to take off your belt and your shoes when you pass through customs, you can’t take photos, you must switch off your mobile phone and “other electric devices” (whatever they are!) I’m surprised we don’t have to pass through customs naked to ensure we’re not wearing any explosive underpants.
British customs officials are specially
trained to identify likely terrorists.

In the past it was so much easier: all you needed to remember was that you had to fasten your seatbelt for take off and landing, and you couldn’t smoke (oh, and you weren’t allowed to carry a weapon onboard either!). You didn’t have to worry about how many mililitres your bottle of water contained and you didn’t have to argue with some teenager in a uniform whether that jar of jam you had bought as a gift for grandma was actually a solid or a liquid.

I wonder what the future holds? Perhaps we will have to arrive at the airport the day before our flight to pass all these incredibly pointless tests Maybe we won’t be allowed to sweat as that might be a “dangerous liquid” I hope we can soon return to the days of common sense and going on holiday can become an enjoyable experience again, when we won’t have to worry about silly laws that only exist to maintain the level of public fear regarding “the war on terror” (so that our governments can continue to start illegal wars abroad).

Exercise 1. This rant above contains examples of modal verbs of obligation. Look at the words in bold and use them to complete this table.

(paragraph 1)
(paragraph 2)
(paragraph 3)
we use these words for rules –
(it is compulsory)

will +
we use these words for rules –
(it is prohibited/it is not permitted)

won’t +
we use this to say something isn’t necessary


Exercise 2.

Now check your understanding by saying if these statements are TRUE or FALSE:
1.      All these modal verbs are followed by the bare infinitive (e.g. “to go”)

2.      “Must” and “have to” have very similar meanings.

3.      We can use both “must” or “have to” in the past, present and future.

4.      “Don’t have to” is the negative of “have to”.

"Welcome to the UK..."

Exercise 3.

Can you complete these sentences using the modal verbs above?

1.      You ______________________ stand up when a plane is taking off.
2.      You ______________________ take a passport when travelling from England into Scotland.
3.      If you are British you ______________________ get a visa to travel to the United States but you ______________________  get a visa when travelling to most European countries.
4.      You ______________________ tell customs if your are bringing more than 200 cigarettes into the UK.
5.      There is a long list of things (food, drink, seeds, plants etc) which you ______________________ take into Australia.
6.      Fifty years ago you ______________________ wear a helmet when riding a motorbike (and there were many more deaths as a result).
7.      I hope that in the future gun laws become much stricter and people won’t ______________________ to keep guns in their homes.
8.      If you earn less than £6,500 next year you ____________________ pay any tax.

"Martin's class were soon highly disciplined..."

9.      Between 1939 and 1960 British men ______________________ do National Service. My father, for example, was in the Royal Air Force.
10.  Many people think that it would be good if young people ______________________ do National Service now.

 Your country

Here are some laws in the UK - how do they compare with your country?

In the UK you must drive on the left.
You don’t have to vote.
You must be 18 to buy cigarettes.
You don’t have to wear a helmet when riding a bike.
You can’t smoke in any public place. This includes football matches.
People don’t have to have ID cards.
You have to pay for a TV licence to own a TV.
Usually, pubs must close at 11pm.
You are not allowed to carry anything which may be considered a weapon.
You mustn’t drive at more than 70mph on the motorway
Nude sunbathing is allowed on some UK beaches.
People are not allowed to beg in the street and buskers on the underground must have a licence
Everyone in a car – front and back seats – must wear a seatbelt
You don’t have to have private health insurance.
Gun ownership is strictly controlled (you must have a licence) and automatic weapons are not allowed.
You don’t have to do military service in the UK.
You must be 16 to drive a moped.
You don’t have to register where you live.
Until a few years ago you had to have a licence to own a dog.
Generally, anyone under 16 isn't allowed to enter pubs or bars

Here is some more useful vocabulary when talking about laws and rules:

it’s illegal

it’s against the law

it’s banned

the law isn’t enforced

the police turn a blind eye

the police are quite relaxed about it

you might get a fine

you might be banned

you might get points on your licence

You can download a free worksheet with a printable version of this blog including answers at
  I hope you find this useful - please visit my facebook page and click "Like" if you do!!/londonenglishclasses1

More to come soon....

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