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The Mystery Man

(movie scene from Lost Highway by David Lynch)

Level: Medium to High. Language: Modals, Greetings, Question forms

David Lynch makes movies where nothing is 100% certain. So they're a great way to practise using modals of possibility. In this scene, Fred meets a strange man at a party. Who could he be?

Task 1: Before you watch the scene, do a quick review of modals. In the sentences below, match the modal to its function. Remember that some modals have multiple functions.

Functions:  

obligation       ability        recommendation        permission       possibility/deduction    

1. Can I borrow a pen please?

2. I can speak a little bit of Mandarin.

3. Could I borrow a pen please?

4. When I was a kid I could speak some Russian.

5. It could rain tomorrow.

6. You look so similar! You must be cousins.

7. I must go to the dentist soon. My tooth is hurting me.

8. It may rain later so remember to take an umbrella.

9. May I open the window?

10. Paul's not home yet. He might have gone for a drink after work.

11. You should see Mulholland Drive. It's a great film.

12. You ought to be careful with Peter - he's your boss!

13. Jessica can't be in London today - her Facebook says she's in Manchester.

a. What type of word do you always need to use immediately after a modal?

b. What is the grammatical structure necessary to use a modal in the past?

c. What are the five modals which can be used to express possibility/deduction?

Task 2: Watch the scene and write a brief answer to the questions below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZowK0NAvig

a. How does the mystery man introduce himself?

b. Why does he give the phone to Fred?

c. What explanation does the mystery man give for this strange situation?

Task 3: Watch the scene again and complete the gaps.

Mystery Man: We've met before, _________ ____?

Fred Madison: I don't think so. Where was it you think we met?

Mystery Man: At your house. Don't you remember?

Fred Madison: No. No, I don't. Are you sure?

Mystery Man: Of course. ____ ___ _______ ___ _____ , I'm there right now.

Fred Madison: What do you mean? You're where right now?

Mystery Man: At your house.

Fred Madison: That's fucking crazy, man.

Mystery Man: Call me. ______ your number. ____ ________ .

Mystery Man: [over the phone] I told you I was here.

Fred Madison: ______ ____ _____ ____ that?

Mystery Man: Ask me.

Fred Madison: [into the phone] How ______ _____ ______ inside my house?

Mystery Man: [voice] You invited me. It is not my custom to go where I ____ ____ ________ .

Fred Madison: [into the phone] Who are you?

Mystery Man: [voice] Give me back my phone. It's been ___ ________ ________ ____ you.


Task 4: With a classmate, three or four theories. Who is the mystery man? How did he answer the phone at the same time as he was talking to Fred? Use modals in your sentences. Try to write some sentences in the present and some in the past.

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Answers:

Task 1 -

1. Can I borrow a pen please?        permission
2. I
can speak a little bit of Mandarin.      ability
3.
Could I borrow a pen please?       permission
4. When I was a kid I
could speak some Russian.     ability (in the past)

5. It could rain tomorrow.             possibility/deduction

6. You look so similar! You must be cousins.     possibility/deduction

7. I must go to the dentist soon. My tooth is hurting me.   obligation

8. It may rain later so remember to take an umbrella.      possibility/deduction

9. May I open the window?     permission

10. Paul's not home yet. He might have gone for a drink after work.     possibility/deduction
11. You
should see Mulholland Drive. It's a great film.       recommendation

12. You ought to be careful with Peter - he's your boss!        recommendation

13. Jessica can't be in London today - her Facebook says she's in Manchester.      possibility/deduction

a. What type of word do you always need to use immediately after a modal?

A verb in its infinitive form (without the word "to")

b. What is the grammatical structure necessary to use a modal in the past?

SUBJECT + MODAL + HAVE + PAST PARTICIPLE

c. What are the five modals which can be used to express possibility/deduction?

must, may, might, could, can't

Task 2 -

a. How does the mystery man introduce himself?

He tells Fred that they have met before.

b. Why does he give the phone to Fred?

He tells Fred that he is at Fred's house. Fred thinks that this is impossible so the mystery man tells him to phone his house to check.

c. What explanation does the mystery man give for this strange situation?

He says that Fred invited him to visit his house. That is why he is at Fred's house now.

Task 3 -

Mystery Man: We've met before, haven't we?

Fred Madison: I don't think so. Where was it you think we met?

Mystery Man: At your house. Don't you remember?

Fred Madison: No. No, I don't. Are you sure?

Mystery Man: Of course. As a matter of fact, I'm there right now.

Fred Madison: What do you mean? You're where right now?

Mystery Man: At your house.

Fred Madison: That's fucking crazy, man.

Mystery Man: Call me. Dial your number. Go ahead.

Mystery Man: [over the phone] I told you I was here.

Fred Madison: How did you do that?

Mystery Man: Ask me.

Fred Madison: [into the phone] How did you get inside my house?

Mystery Man: [voice] You invited me. It is not my custom to go where I am not invited.

Fred Madison: [into the phone] Who are you?

Mystery Man: [voice] Give me back my phone. It's been a pleasure talking you.


Task 4 -

(Examples)

Fred could be dreaming.Fred may be crazy and he is possibly imagining this scene.The mystery man could be a vampire or the devil. The mystery man might have recorded the phone responses earlier. Fred may have taken some drugs at the party so now he could be hallucinating.

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