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I was reading about English modal verbs a few days ago, and on the same page the author pointed out that the French don't have modal verbs. Fair enough. They don't have the equivalent of our "shall" and "would", and instead they use conjugated verbs like "devoir" before an infinitive, as in: "Vous devez les informer."

Then today I came across another article on a different site:

Defining modal verbs: A modal verb is a verb that qualifies an action with regard to its desirability, its necessity, its possibility or its futurity. While this is a clear and concise definition, it is an unsatisfactory definition which does not even fully account for all modal verbs in English. As far as French linguistics are concerned, it is often said that French does not have modal verbs. Whether or not this is the case is a matter of opinion, not fact, and will always be a good subject for academic argument among linguists; in recent years, and by assimilation with English and other languages, the expression "verbes modaux" is increasingly used.

http://about-france.com/french/modal-verbs.htm

Is this person wrong...or what is going on?

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    French has modal verbs. What you quote doesn't say the opposite. I says " Whether or not this is the case is a matter of opinion,". Pouvoir, & devoir are definitely modal verbs, there are a few others. Some grammarians call them semi-auxiliaires but they refer to the same thing. – Laure Oct 19 '16 at 5:23
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    you should link the english page about modal verbs... it seems to be the wrong one – Yohann V. Oct 19 '16 at 6:06
  • Merci Laure, bonne référence. Yohann, I only have the one about the French ones, but it's written in English obviously. I don't have another link. – Jlente Oct 19 '16 at 7:09
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    I think the distinction is that French, like English, has modal verbs as a grammatical function (e.g. I want to drink // je veux boire), but not modal verbs as a separate grammatical nature (there's no equivalent of words like can and shall that don't follow the usual rules such as third person singular -s ending, present participle formed by adding -ing, etc. – Gilles Oct 19 '16 at 19:54
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Since neither @Laure or @Gilles wish to post an answer, I'm posting their comments until they want to or someone gives more informations :

@Gilles :
I think the distinction is that French, like English, has modal verbs as a grammatical function (e.g. I want to drink // je veux boire), but not modal verbs as a separate grammatical nature (there's no equivalent of words like can and shall that don't follow the usual rules such as third person singular -s ending, present participle formed by adding -ing, etc.

@Laure :
French has modal verbs. What you quote doesn't say the opposite. I says " Whether or not this is the case is a matter of opinion,". Pouvoir & devoir are definitely modal verbs, there are a few others. Some grammarians call them semi-auxiliaires but they refer to the same thing.

More info : Pragmatique des verbes modaux en français : aspects synchroniques et diachroniques.

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