What’s the difference between modal and model?


In Linguistics, the term MODAL VERB is used when referring to words like can, will, should, must etc. They set the ‘mode’ of verbs, that is to say, they add extra meaning to them. For example:

  • I go to school. (no extra meaning, it’s a habitual action)
  • I must go to school. (extra meaning = it’s an obligation)
  • I visit my grandma at weekends. (no extra meaning, it’s a habitual action)
  • I should visit my grandma at the weekend. (extra meaning = I think it’s a good idea to visit her)
  • You’re serious. (no extra meaning, it’s a fact)
  • You can’t be serious. (extra meaning = I think it’s impossible that you’re serious)

There are also so-called ‘semi-modals’ which are made up of two or more separate words: have (got) to, ought to, be able to, going to, used to.

  • I live here. (no extra meaning, it’s a fact)
  • I used to live here. (extra meaning = I don’t live here anymore)
  • I do homework. (no extra information, it’s a fact)
  • I ought to do homework. (extra information = I think it’s a good idea to do it)
  • I have to do homework. (extra information = It’s an obligation)

On the other hand, the word MODEL has many different meanings.

The first one has nothing to do with linguistics:
A model is a person whose job is to wear and showcase clothes in fashion shows. Some famous models are Tyra Banks, Adriana Lima and Coco Rocha.
MODEL may also mean ‘use as an example/ demonstrate’. When a teacher wants her students to pronounce a word correctly, she models it first, then the students repeat it after her.
Some people make airplane or ship models in their free time. These are small, three-dimensional representations of the original objects.

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