• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents

Modal verbs are able to provide the outer structure for an intransitive complementive predication.


Modal verbs include moattemust, meiemay, hoegeneed, wollewant. They can also be used in a copular construction, some examples are provided below:

Example 1

a. De flesse moat leech
the bottle must empty
The bottle must be emptied
b. It rút mei wol iepen, hear
the window may DcP open DcP
The window may be open (if you want)
c. De flesse hoecht net leech, hear
the bottle need not empty DcP
The bottle need not be emptied (take note)
d. De flesse wol net leech
the bottle want not empty
We cannot get the bottle empty

The construction characteristically occurs with inanimate subjects. Comparative and superlative adjectives are allowed in the construction, although superlatives are rare:

Example 2

a. *Hy kin better
he can better
He can do better
b. Dat kin better
that can better
That can be improved upon
c. Hy moat koarter
it must shorter
It must be shorter
He must be shorter
d. Dy moat wat koarter en dy oare moat it koartst
that must what shorter and that other must the shortest
That one must be a bit shorter and that other one must be the shortest

Hence, adjectives requiring animate subjects do not occur in the construction:

Example 3

a. *Hy moat / hoecht net benaud
he must need not afraid he must need not afraid
He must / need not be afraid
b. *Hy kin bliid
he can happy
He can be happy

Modal verbs generally imply the involvement of a human referent. For example, in the case of meiemay, the human referent is the one giving permission. The human referent may be expressed in an Adposition Phrase (PP) introduced by omabout or fanof:

Example 4

a. De flesse moast leech fan Prins Karnaval
the bottle must empty of Prince Carnaval
Prince Carnaval wanted the bottle emptied
b. De flesse moast leech om Prins Karnaval
the bottle must empty about Prince Carnaval
Prince Carnaval wanted the bottle emptied
c. It rút mei om / fan my wol iepen, hear
the window may about / of me DcP open DcP
I do not mind if you open the window
d. De flesse hoecht om / fan my net leech, hear
the bottle need about of me not empty DcP
You do not need to empty the bottle

The choice of preposition depends in part on the modal verb involved. The use of om is characteristically Frisian (not Dutch). This preposition is disallowed with the verb moattemust, as shown in the example (b) above.

    Suggestions for further reading ▼
    • Dutch
    • Frisian
    • Afrikaans
    Show more ▼
    • Dutch
    • Frisian
    • Afrikaans
    Show more ▼
    • Dutch
    • Frisian
    • Afrikaans
    • 6.2.1. The three main construction types
      [80%] Dutch > Syntax > Adjectives and Adjective Phrases > 6 Predicative use of the adjective phrase > 6.2. Complementive use of the adjective
    • 2.2.3. Resultative constructions
      [79%] Dutch > Syntax > Verbs and Verb Phrases > 2 Projection of verb phrases I:Argument structure > 2.2. Complementives (secondary predicates)
    • 3.3.1. Adpositional phrases
      [79%] Dutch > Syntax > Nouns and Noun Phrases > 3 Projection of noun phrases II: modification > 3.3. Postmodification
    • Modal verbs
      [79%] Dutch > Syntax > Verbs and Verb Phrases > 5 Projection of verb phrases IIIb:Argument and complementive clauses > 5.2. Infinitival argument clauses > 5.2.3. Bare infinitivals
    • Complementive use
      [78%] Dutch > Syntax > Adpositions and adpositional phrases > 1 Characteristics and classification > 1.1. Characterization of the category adposition > 1.1.2. Syntactic uses of adpositional phrases
    Show more ▼