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Is there a term for modal auxiliaries in Spanish?

Voy a - hacer

Puedo - hacer

Debo - hacer

Tengo que - hacer

What do you call the first verb in these compounds?

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They are perífrasis verbales, where the first verb is the verbo auxiliar and the second is the verbo auxiliado. The preposition between them is the nexo.

Here are some more examples:

  • To express beginning: Empezar a, comenzar a, iniciar a, principiar a, ponerse a [verbo]
  • To express an intention or future action: Ir a, pensar [verbo]
  • To express repetition: Volver a [verbo]
  • To express continuity: Estar [ger], seguir [ger], continuar [ger]
  • To express ending: Terminar de, dejar de, cesar de [verbo]

And of course, deber, soler and poder [verbo]. In your examples:

Voy a hacer ⇒ Voy (verbo auxiliar) a (nexo) hacer (verbo auxiliado)
Puedo hacer ⇒ Puedo (verbo auxiliar) hacer (verbo auxiliado)
Debo hacer ⇒ Debo (verbo auxiliar) hacer (verbo auxiliado)
Tengo que hacer ⇒ Tengo (verbo auxiliar) que (nexo) hacer (verbo auxiliado)

The term modal exists in Spanish, but it's restricted to certain kind of verbs: only the perífrasis verbales that tell you something about the speaker's attitude towards the action are "perífrasis modales" (for example, "pienso irme"). The rest of them are "perífrasis aspectuales" (for example, "me estoy yendo"). Either way, what English speakers would call "modal verb" is verbo auxiliar.

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