Auxiliary Verbs for intermediate learners

Auxiliary verbs help the main verb to express tense or voice or help make questions and negative sentences. That's why they're also called 'helping verbs'.

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"Auxiliary Verbs" in English Grammar

What Are Auxiliary Verbs?

Auxiliary Verbs are words that help the main verb in creating tenses and voices in sentences. They are also used to make questions and negative sentences. Take a quick look at the table below to gain a clear understanding of the functions of different verbs in English:

Modals Main Verbs Auxiliary Verbs
Making the Tense\Voice
Creating the Meaning
Making Questions and Negative Sentences
Being Used More than Once

English Auxiliary Verbs

The most commonly used auxiliary verbs in English are listed below:

All of these three verbs are used as both the main and the auxiliary verbs. Let us examine each one closely.

The Verb 'Be'

The verb 'be' means to exist in itself. Let us look at different ways this verb is used:

She is happy.

As you can see, 'be' is the main verb.

They are going to the movies.

Here, the 'be' verb is an auxiliary and the main verb is 'go'.

The Verb 'Have'

The verb 'have' when used as the main verb means 'to possess', 'to eat or drink'. When used as an auxiliary verb, it simply helps the main verb to form the tense and the voice. Pay attention to the examples below:

I'll have a margarita pasta.

Here, the verb 'have' is used as the main verb and has a meaning of itself.

Has she read the novel?

Here, the conjugated form of 'have' is used as an auxiliary to show the tense and the voice.

The Verb 'Do'

Just like the other two verbs, When we use 'do' as the main verb, it means 'to act', 'to perform'. However, when we use it as an auxiliary verb, it simply serves as a helper verb and does not carry its own meaning. Let us look at some examples below:

Do you like to dance with me?

Here, 'do' is an auxiliary verb helping the main verb make a question.

Do your job, Martha!

As you can see, 'do' is the main verb.

Uses

As mentioned above, these auxiliary verbs are used to help form:

  • Tenses and Voices
  • Questions and Negative Statements

Tenses and Voices

One of the functions of auxiliary verbs is to show the tense and the voice of a statement. Different tenses like present continuous, past perfect, future perfect, and different voices such as active or passive voices, are indicated by these auxiliary verbs. Let us take a look at some examples:

The decision was made among us.

As you can see, the auxiliary verb 'was' shows that the action happened in the past and this sentence is in the passive voice.

I'm being ridiculous.

Here, the verb 'be' is used as both an auxiliary and the main verb and it shows the sentence is in the present continuous tense.

Questions and Negative Statements

As mentioned above, another use of auxiliary verbs is to transform the sentences into negative statements and questions. Now let us look at some examples below:

I don't want to hear your voice anymore.

Here, the auxiliary verb is used to make a negative sentence.

Are you talking to me?

As you can see, the sentence has been transformed into a question form, and the auxiliary verb shows that it is in the present continuous tense.

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