Why was https://english.stackexchange.com/q/186168/50720 closed as off-topic by members of the community? Maybe different members have a different view on this.

My trouble is summarised by Professor Lawler's instructive comment below it. 'Commonly-available references' don't answer it. Please reopen?

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    While the question might be worth reopening, it's still problematic. I don't think it makes sense to ask which sense of mode applies in modal verb. Further more asking about auxiliaries is asking too many things for one question. Jul 28, 2014 at 11:00
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    You state a number of questions there, but all of them seem to be elementary. "What does 'mode' mean in 'modal'?" - look up the definition of 'modal' and see if 'mode' is mentioned. "How do you relate modal to auxiliary?" Again, look them both up; a modal is a kind of auxiliary.
    – Mitch
    Jul 28, 2014 at 12:24
  • @curiousdannii Please explain 'I don't think it makes sense to ask which sense of mode applies in modal verb.' ?
    – NNOX Apps
    Jul 28, 2014 at 13:36
  • @Mitch I did; 'mode' does appear there.
    – NNOX Apps
    Jul 28, 2014 at 13:37
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    One definition out of many is pretty self-explanatory - "Grammar : noting or pertaining to mood." The interesting question here, if any, is why the derivation isn't 'moodal'. Are you asking that?
    – Mitch
    Jul 28, 2014 at 13:55
  • Because it comes from Latin modus 'measure'. The double O is just an English spelling variant. That's why mood has a meaning associated with emotion as well as grammar; it's been around a long time; all of them are just O-grade versions of the PIE root *med-. Aug 7, 2014 at 22:32

1 Answer 1


Just so you know, I voted to reopen the question. It seems similar to my own What exactly is an “adverb”?, which came perilously close to being closed as General Reference before gaining traction and becoming my second most upvoted question.

Apropos which, I'm still a bit piqued that my Where does “Don't bogart that joint” come from? remains closed as GR. Okay - it's obvious once it's pointed out. But I couldn't easily satisfy my curiosity anywhere else online at the time, and I generally consider my google-fu to be pretty good.

As John Lawler says (and he should know! :),...

Modality is a very complex subject. It's the source of the grammatical term mood (as in "subjunctive mood"), and it also uses a special variety of logic called Modal Logic. It's precisely on target here.

Some folk here seem to think I habitually closevote questions as Too Basic, but I reject that. Mostly I think there are no dumb questions, only dumb answers. I often closevote ELU questions because I think they're not suitable for this site, and should have been asked on English Language Learners.

I've no doubt entire books could be written about linguistic moods, modality, modal verbs, etc. I don't want to see an incredibly long answer on ELU trying to cover every aspect of the concept, but it would be nice if someone could post a relatively short (but authoritative) answer. Which can't happen while the question remains closed.

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    Modality may be a complex subject, but the question doesn't ask about modality. The question asks what modal means, not what modal is. There is a gigantic difference there.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Jul 28, 2014 at 18:20
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    @KitFox: I utterly reject that position. You're just splitting hairs about whether the OP was asking about the (contextless?) meaning of the word modal, as opposed to asking what exactly we're talking about when we use any of these terms on ELU. I don't have the faintest idea how to distinguish a modal verb from an auxiliary verb. Without doing some (probably taxing) research, I don't even know whether or to what extent those two terms overlap - and I'm a competent speaker with my tertiary education primarily focussed on language. So I fully expect and wish the question to be reopened. Jul 28, 2014 at 18:46
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    (I also have no idea whether grammatical mood and mode are the same or different things. These are potentially interesting points which might reasonably be addressed by a decent answer once the question is reopened.) Jul 28, 2014 at 18:50
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    I have every reason to believe my interpretation of the situation is correct. I invite you to edit the question to reflect your expectation of how it could generate good answers. It would very likely contribute to it being re-opened.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Jul 28, 2014 at 18:51
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    @KitFox: I think the problem here is simply that the OP has raised a few hackles by asking so many questions that people think are fairly pointless (and the ill-advised use of brook in this particular question probably didn't help). I remain of the opinion that the question as originally framed should not have been closed, and it shouldn't be necessary for someone like me to supplement that question with an outline of what a good answer might look like in order to get it reopened. All it needs is for people to think more objectively about the situation and change their minds. Jul 28, 2014 at 18:59
  • That's as may be; but shouldn't everyone who wants the question re-opened be trying to change people's minds?
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jul 28, 2014 at 20:22
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    @Andrew: I really do think this one is akin to the initial reaction to my "adverb" question - there's a predisposition to close it, and that has unfortunately carried the day. It seems defeatist to say the question might be okay if re-worded, or that it would only become okay if someone sketched out the gist of a possibly stellar answer. Sure - I want people to change their minds (or others to overrule the original closevote). But I think that's because the decision was wrong in the first place, not because it's not presented well (lots of much worse questions remain sanctioned). Jul 28, 2014 at 21:33

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