Teflnet : ESL Lesson Plans : Classroom Ideas : Grammar : could, would, should Modals

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could, would, should Modals

Listen as German-born actress and singer Marlene Dietrich demonstrates her perfect command of English modals.

In this made-for-TEFL Hollywood production, Marlene Dietrich (1901—1992) gives a virtuoso demonstration of the “could would should modals”, rendering those pesky modal verbs in perfect context—in their negative form to boot.

could would should by Dietrich

Dietrich’s lyrics, as sung in this video (starting at 0:21), are:

Nothing ever worries me,
No-one ever hurries me.
I take pleasure leisurely,
Even when I kiss.

But when I kiss they want some more,
And wanting more becomes a bore;
It isn’t worth the fighting for,
So I tell them this:

It’s not ’cause I wouldn’t,
It’s not ’cause I shouldn’t,
And, you know,
It’s not ’cause I couldn’t.
It’s simply because
I’m the laziest gal in town.

Though I’m more than willing to learn
How these gals get money to burn,
Every proposition I turn down, way down.

It’s not ’cause I wouldn’t,
It’s not ’cause I shouldn’t,
And, you know,
It’s not ’cause I couldn’t.
It’s simply because
I’m the laziest gal in town.

My poor heart is achin’
To bring home the bacon,
And if I’m alone and forsaken,
It’s simply because I’m the laziest gal in town.

Though I’m more than willing to learn
How these gals get money to burn,
Every proposition I turn down, way down.

It’s not ’cause I wouldn’t,
It’s not ’cause I shouldn’t,
And, you know,
It’s not ’cause I couldn’t.
It’s simply because
I’m the laziest gal in town.


Words by Cole Porter


It’s worth noting that in some versions Dietrich reverses the two modals would and should (It’s not ’cause I shouldn’t, It’s not ’cause I wouldn’t [0:18]). And sometimes she sings And, we know [2:06] instead of And, you know. For the right level, you could ask your students to spot the difference.

’cause (conjunction): because
gal (noun): girl (informal, mainly N.American)
Written by Joe Essberger for Teflnet August 2015
Joe Essberger is founder of TEFL.net and EnglishClub and has taught EFL in Europe and Asia.

One Comment

  • PATRICIA LEONOR PEREZ says:

    excellent Joe as usual! Love your mails

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Teflnet : ESL Lesson Plans : Classroom Ideas : Grammar : could, would, should Modals