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Auxiliary Verb






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Mastering Appositives: From Ordinary to Extraordinary: Mastering Auxiliary Verbs in English

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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What is an auxiliary verb

Auxiliary verbs serve as one of the main and important sectors of the spine of the English language. With their presence, the existence of this language was possible. To know these auxiliary verb meaning  more accurately, we need to explore more into this topic. So, let’s dive deep into it and figure it out. 

Helper verbs or Helping verbs are the other two most prominent names of auxiliary verbs. They can be defined as minor verbs whose function is to aid the primary verbs of the sentences in connecting deeply with important grammatical concepts like concepts of modality or time. Let’s consider an example, ” I have completed this job.” In this sentence, the main verb complete is supported by an auxiliary verb have. 

They may create confusion in the mind; therefore, we are here to explain it from top to bottom. 

Auxiliary verbs have great significance in forming sentences. They play a supportive role in the sentence’s main verb, as discussed earlier. While creating perfect and continuous tenses, they are used more prominently to reveal different aspects of time. 

For example: 

  • I go to the park. (Simple Present that has no auxiliary verb)
  • I am going to the park. ( Present Continuous)

Not only from the aspect of time but auxiliary verbs are also used in terms of voice(active Vs. passive); they add importance and significance in such a way. 

For example: 

  • You love her, don’t you?
  • I do love her!

Thus, on a superficial level, we have understood what these auxiliary verbs are and what their main functions are. So, it’s time for us to upgrade our knowledge and boost ourselves with more detailed information and theories on the topic. Let’s move forward in a steady way. 

Understanding "Has" vs "Have" as Auxiliary Verbs

We need to start from the basic level to understand this, has Vs. have as auxiliary verbs. Has and Have are the most frequent words used in English grammar. If you need clarification at the beginner level, differentiate between them, and you might get confused while using them. Then we are going to give you a hack that will help you for the rest of your life, and you will be able to solve the secret of has and have as auxiliary verbs. 

The prime function of Has and Have as auxiliary verbs are to help other verbs to create the perfect tense. 

For example:

  • John has eaten his food.
  • He must have done the work. 

The sentences mentioned here show how has and have helped other verbs to form a perfect tense. 

Now, let’s discover the difference between Has and Have in the present perfect tense. 

How to use Has in the present perfect tense?

While creating a statement, if it’s a question, an affirmative or a negative statement, the use of “has” will be there as long as the subject treated in the statement is third-person singular: “he,” “she,” “it.” or a singular noun or even a name. 

Here are some examples given:

  • Has he received the parcel? (Question)
  • My brother has gone to the United Kingdom three times. (Affirmative)
  • My son has not eaten the food. (Negative)

How to use Have in the present perfect tense?

The form of treatment will be similar to “have,” also, but the subjects here will be “I,” “we,” “the,” and “you.” and also the plural nouns.

Here are some examples given:

  • I have watched this movie four times.
  • You have completed this task.
  • We have learned this skill.
  • They have spoiled everything.

It will also be the same for any kind of question or negative statement too.

For example:

  • My brothers have not watched this movie. (Negative)
  • You have not completed the task within the deadline. (Negative)

Have we thought before doing this? (Question)

Types of auxiliary verbs

What is a auxiliary verb? There are four main types of auxiliary verbs, and we will understand this one by one.

Let’s get started with the very first one:

Primary auxiliary verbs.

Be, Have and Do are the main primary auxiliary verbs used in the English Language. They demand some tricks to master them because they can also be used as the primary verb in a clause, and each one of them should be able to connect so that they can show plurality and tense at the end. “

For perfect, continuous and perfect continuous tenses, “Be” and “Have” are used. Do is primarily used to create interrogative sentences and convert the main verbs to negative ones. 

Now let’s understand the auxiliary functions while forming tenses.

To form different tenses of primary verbs, “Be” and “Have” are used as auxiliary verbs.

Understanding Do

If there is no auxiliary verb along with the main verb in the sentence, then we make use of the auxiliary verb, that is, do/does, to the primary verb in a negative way.

Some examples are:

  • I take two days off in a week. (affirmative)
  • I do not take two days off in a week. (negative)
  • He plays basketball. (affirmative)
  • He does not play basketball. (negative)

Modal auxiliary verbs:

And we have the second category of auxiliary verbs, and it is Modal auxiliary verbs. They are used with the primary verb of the sentence. Some famous modal auxiliary verb examples are should, could, must, may, and many more are there. 

In spite of being tricky in nature, one can learn it simply. 

Let’s get started with a more detailed discussion. Generally, modal auxiliary verbs are used to define some specific hypothetical situations, such as requests, capabilities or advisability. The meaning of the main verb gets affected by the usage of such verbs. 

For example:

  • I play soccer every day.
  • I can play soccer every day.

Some commonly used modal auxiliary verbs are:

  • shall
  • can
  • should
  • may
  • will
  • must
  • could
  • might 
  • should

Situations when modal auxiliary verbs are used:

  • Possibility: It implies a situation when something is not so sure or certain, but it is possible, at that time could, may or might are used.

    Example: He might play today.

  • Permission: If someone needs permission at that time, the modal verbs used are can, may or could.

    Example: Can I leave this meeting? 

  • Ability: When a situation is related to someone’s potential or ability at that time, can is used. And in a negative way, cannot or can’t be used.

    Example: He can’t play cricket.

  • Likelihood: Some facts that seem to be correct or likely true, but it is not sure at that moment should or must can be used to define the probability of the situation.

    Example: He must be proud of his son.

  • Request: If you need any help or you want to approach someone to do you a favor at that time, start your statement with a will, can, would, could.

    Example: Can you please help me with this work?

  • Habit: While representing a habitual action, you can use modal verbs such as would for past tense and will for present tense.

    Example: I will wake up early in the morning.

  • Command: While commanding someone, you can make use of modal verbs such as need, have, or must.

    Example: You must complete your work by this evening.

  • Suggestion/advice: Use the modal verb should while advising, recommending or suggesting something to someone.

    Example: You should try cold coffee once.

  • Obligation: While using obligatory statements, use modal verbs like must, need, and have.

    Example: We have to wait for the boss to come. 

Semi-Modal auxiliary verbs:

The third category of auxiliary verbs is known as Semi-Modal auxiliary verbs and can also be referred to as semi-modal verbs. They are also used along with the main verbs to give a unique meaning. 

Dare, need, used to and ought to are some commonly used semi-modal verbs. They are used in conjunction with the main verbs to give a definite expression of the verb. Also, in the case of third-person singular subjects, they do not conjugate; they are unable to form the structure of infinitives, present participles, or past participles.

Let’s examine these semi-modal verbs one by one:

  1. Dare: Dare as a semi-modal verb is used when it is necessary to describe a situation that involves actions related to somebody indicating the nature of being brave, reckless or rude. While functioning modally, it doesn’t bind to a person or a tense. Example: If he dares to cross his limits, I’ll teach him a proper lesson. Dare also forms negative or interrogative sentences such as: How dare you talk to me like that? He daren’t give me a reason to get angry.

  2. Used to: It’s clearly visible that when someone uses used to, they refer to the past. While conveying a habitual action, “Used to” is brought into the action. Example: I used to play badminton for my state.

  3. Ought to: A semi-modal verb that is followed by a “to” or “not to.” It is considered as similar as should. It is being used to express a situation that involves moral obligation, service or duty. Example: You ought to stand with the truth. Example: You ought not to spend too much money on entertainment.

  4. Need: While communicating a necessity or a situation involving an obligation, it is necessary to use this semi-modal verb. Also, while forming negative statements, need is used without “to” just before the main verb. 

Example: I need to pay attention to my work.  I needn’t go to such trouble. They need to practise harder this season.

Dummy Auxiliary Verbs

The fourth and the last category in this list is known as dummy auxiliary verbs. These are generally used to form the structure of questions and negative statements. Also, they do not have any meaning of their own, as they just help the sentences’ primary verbs to form a definite meaning. 

The primary objectives of dummy auxiliary verbs are an indication of tenses and, meanwhile, forming negative statements and questions.

Here are some uses listed below:

  1. Formation of questions or interrogative sentences: The auxiliary verb “do” is most prominently used in English to form questions. Example: Do you like Italian food? Example: Does she like to go to parties? Example: Did he attend the meeting?

  2. Formation of negative statements: “Do” is also used to form the structure of the negative statements. Example: I don’t like Thai food. Example: He doesn’t have that much sense of the game. Example: They didn’t submit the project within the deadline. 

In the examples mentioned above, the tense (present or past) is indicated by the auxiliary verb “do.” and accordingly, the negative statements and questions are formed. 

How to Identify an Auxiliary Verb

Here are some tips and tricks mentioned below using which one can easily identify the auxiliary verbs in sentences:

  1. Search for helping verbs: “Helping Verbs” is the other name for auxiliary verbs, as it is known that they help form the structure of different sentences with different moods, tenses and voices. Some most commonly and prominently used auxiliary verbs are “be,” “do,” and “have.” If these verbs are visible, they are most likely auxiliary verbs. 

  2. Identification of the verb phrase: The verb phrase is most important in English. It generally contains a primary verb and one or more auxiliary verbs. Therefore, it’s important to search for a group of words, including the main and auxiliary verbs mentioned above. Thus it is a verb phrase, and now you can easily find the auxiliary verbs. 

Let’s go through some examples having auxiliary verbs in them:

  • She is practising for the upcoming tournament. (“is” is the auxiliary verb)
  • They have been working hard on the project the whole day. (“Have” is the auxiliary verb)
  • Did you complete your work? (“Did” is the auxiliary verb)

Auxiliary Verb Forms and Tenses

For forming perfect tenses, have is used, and for continuous tenses, be could be used on its own. To form perfect continuous tenses, both have and been are used together in one sentence.

Let’s try to understand these with proper auxiliary verbs examples;

Present continuous tense:

The present participle of the primary verb is used along with am/are/is to structure the present continuous tense.

  • I am working on this project.
  • He is living in New Zealand.

Past continuous tense :

The present participle of the main verb is used along with was/were to structure the past continuous tense.

  • I was studying when Rahul called me.
  • We were working out at that time.

Future continuous tense:

Will be is used along with the present participle of the main verb, or am/is/are is followed by going to be and is used with the present participle of the main verb to form the structure of the future continuous tense.

  • I will be working tomorrow for the whole day.
  • He is going to be joining the team in the middle of the season.

Present perfect tense:

The structure of the present perfect tense contains the past participle of the primary verb, which is followed by have/has.

  • I have lived in Jamshedpur for all my life.
  • He has studied for this exam for months.
  • They have tried hard to win this game.

Past perfect tense:

The past participle of the primary verb is used along with had to form the structure of past perfect tense.

  • I had already committed a big mistake.
  • We had gone through the consequences earlier.

Future perfect tense:

The past participle of the main verb, along with will have, constitutes a future perfect tense.

  • I will have finished the project by today.
  • She will have got some experience before she joins the office.

Present perfect continuous tense:

The present perfect continuous tense is formed when have been, is used along with the present participle of the main verb. 

  • I have been trying to connect with you for one day.

Past perfect continuous tense:

The present participle of the main verb is followed by had been to form the past perfect continuous tense.

  • We had been practising the whole day.

Future perfect continuous tense:

In the future perfect continuous tense will have been used along with the present participle of the main verb.

  • I will have been completing my cricketing journey for 5 years this week.

Common Auxiliary Verbs and Their Uses

The three most common auxiliary verbs are ” be,” “do,” and “have.” Let us together look at the sentences and examples. 

  1. Be:
  • Present tense: She is a doctor.
  • Past tense: They were at the party last night.
  • Future tense: We will be there in an hour.
  • Present continuous tense: He is eating lunch.
  • Past continuous tense: They were playing soccer yesterday.
  • Present perfect tense: I have been to Paris twice.
  • Past perfect tense: She had already left by the time I arrived.
  • Future perfect tense: They will have finished the project by next week.
  1. Do:
  • Present tense: He does his homework every day.
  • Past tense: We did our best in the competition.
  • Future tense: They will do the dishes after dinner.
  • Present continuous tense: Why are you doing that?
  • Past continuous tense: They were doing their laundry when I called.
  • Present perfect tense: She has done a great job with the project.
  • Past perfect tense: They had already done their shopping before they met us.
  • Future perfect tense: I will have done my work by the time you come back.
  1. Have:
  • Present tense: She has a beautiful voice.
  • Past tense: They had a great time at the concert.
  • Future tense: We will have dinner together tomorrow.
  • Present continuous tense: He has been playing the guitar for two hours.
  • Past continuous tense: They had been walking for hours before they found the road.
  • Present perfect tense: I have seen that movie before.
  • Past perfect tense: She had already finished her work when he arrived.
  • Future perfect tense: They will have completed their project by next month.
auxiliary verb infographics

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Key Takeaways

  1. It is dependent on the main verb.

  2. There are different types of auxiliary verbs. 

  3. It includes emotions and moods.


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a main verb and an auxiliary verb?

The main verb indicates the regular action, while an auxiliary verb always depends on the main verb.

What are the different forms of auxiliary verbs?

There are four auxiliary verbs: Auxiliary Verbs that Express Tense, Auxiliary Verbs that Express Mood, Auxiliary Verbs that Express Voice, and Auxiliary Verbs that Express Modality.

What is the function of auxiliary verbs in a sentence?

They help enhance the verb while supporting it and expressing other kinds of emotions and activities regarding it, giving additional information.

How do I identify an auxiliary verb in a sentence?

If there is any other verb which is supporting the main verb, you can easily identify it as an auxiliary verb in complex sentences.

What is the difference between a linking verb and an auxiliary verb?

Linking the verb specifically connects the verb and the sentence, while the auxiliary verb indicates mood and is emotion-specific to the main verb.

Are there any exercises or activities to help me understand auxiliary verbs better?

You can definitely look at Wikipedia, Grammarly and Edulyte for guidance. Also check out the worksheet given below for more insights. 

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