Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs are a closed group of functional verbs.

What are auxiliary verbs? 

Auxiliary verbs, also known as helping verbs, are a type of verbs that helps the main verb in forming various verb tenses, moods, voices, and other grammatical constructions. 
Types of Auxiliary Verbs
In English, auxiliary verbs can be classified into three main types: 
  1. primary auxiliary verbs,
  2. modal auxiliary verbs, and
  3. semi-modal auxiliary verbs.

Primary Auxiliary Verbs:
Primary auxiliary verbs, also known as basic auxiliary verbs, are a group of three verbs in English: "be," "have," and "do." 
These verbs are called "primary" because they can function as both main verbs and auxiliary verbs, depending on the context in which they are used.


The "be" verbs have different forms. They are: 
  • Base form: be
  • Present form: am, is, are
  • Past form: was, were
  • Past participle: been
  • Present participle: being
"Be" verbs can function both as main verbs or auxiliary verbsHere are some uses:

"Be" as Main Verb

"Be" as a main verb forms the sentence without the help of any other verb.
  • I am tired today.
  • The sun is up.
As a main verb, "be verb" describes "state of being" or "existence".

Adjective & Noun Phrase

When "Be Verb" functions as a main verbs, it follows an adjective or a noun. 

Be + Adjective

"Be verb" follows an adjective which modifies the subject. 

  • He is tall.
  • They are happy.

The adjective used after a be verb is called "predicative adjective". It is also called subject complement. 

Be + Noun Phrase

    "Be verb" follows a noun  which renames the subject. 

    • I am a teacher.
    • We were students.

    The noun used after a be verb is called "predicative nominative". It is also called subject complement. 

    Be + Prepositional Phrase
    • She is in the park.
    • They were at the party last night. 

    Subject Complement

    The adjective or noun after the "be verb" is called "subject complement". 

    Linking Verb

    "Be" verb is also called "linking verb" because it connects the subject with the complement. 

    "Be" as Auxiliary Verb:

    "Be" as an auxiliary verb does two things:  
    Forming Continuous Tense
    • She is studying for her exams.
    • They were playing soccer yesterday.
    Forming Passive Voice
    • The cake was baked by my sister.
    • The report was reviewed by the manager.
    It's important to note that the choice of "be" verb depends on the subject and the tense of the sentence. For example, "am" is used with the first-person singular pronoun "I" in the present tense, while "were" is used with plural subjects in the past tense.

    Have, Has & Had


    "Have" has different forms. They are: 
    • Base form: have
    • Present form: have & has
    • Past form: had
    • Past participle: had
    • Present participle: having
    "Have" can function both as auxiliary verbs and main verbs. Here are some common uses of "have":

    "Have" as Auxiliary Verb

    "Have" as auxiliary verb forms perfect tenses.

      Present Perfect

      It is formed by combining "have" (in the present tense) with the past participle of the main verb.


      1. I have finished my homework.
      2. She has invited you to the party.

      Past Perfect

      It is formed by combining "had" (in the past tense) with the past participle of the main verb.


      1. She had already left when I arrived.
      2. The party began after the chief guest had arrived

      Future Perfect

      It is formed by combining "will have" with the past participle of the main verb.


      1. By the time you arrive, I will have finished cooking.
      2. You will have heard the name of William Shakespeare. 

      "Have" as a Main Verb

      "Have" as a main verb indicates possession or activity.


        "Have" can express ownership or possession of something.
        1. I have a car.
        2. She has a lot of money. 


        "Have" can be used in place of "eat" or "drink".
        1. We have dinner together every Sunday.
        2. She had three cups of coffee. 


        "Have" can be used to talk about illnesses.
        1. He has a cold.
        2. I have a bad headache. 


        "Do" can function both as a main verb and an auxiliary verb. Here are some examples: 
        "Do" as a main verb:
        It can serve as the main verb to indicate actions or activities.
        Example: "I do my homework every day."
        As an auxiliary verb:
        The verb "do" can also function as an auxiliary verb in certain contexts, particularly in questions, negations, and emphatic statements. Here are some key uses of "do" as an auxiliary verb:
        Question formation:
        In interrogative sentences, "do" is used to form questions in the present simple and past simple tenses:
        • Present simple: "Do you like ice cream?"
        • Past simple: "Did he finish his homework?"
        In negative sentences, "do" is used to form the negation of the present simple and past simple tenses:
        • Present simple: "I do not (don't) eat meat."
        • Past simple: "She did not (didn't) go to the party."
        "Do" can be used to add emphasis to a statement or question:
        • Statement: "I do love chocolate!"
        • Question: "Do you really love me?"
        In short answers or responses, "do" can replace a repeated verb:
        • "Do you like pizza?" "Yes, I do."
        • "Did she finish her work?" "No, she didn't."
        Tag questions:
        "Do" is used in tag questions to seek confirmation or clarification:
        • "You like coffee, don't you?"
        • "He won the game, didn't he?"
        In these cases, "do" acts as an auxiliary verb to help form questions, negations, emphasize statements, or provide abbreviated responses. It allows for more flexibility and variety in sentence structures and helps convey different shades of meaning.

        Modal Verbs

        "Can": Indicates ability or permission.
        • Ability: "She can swim."
        "Could": Indicates past ability, possibility, or polite requests.
        • Polite request: "Could you please pass the salt?"
        "May": Indicates permission or possibility.
        • Permission: "May I borrow your book?"
        "Might": Indicates possibility or uncertainty.
        • Possibility: "It might rain tomorrow."
        "Will": Indicates future actions or willingness.
        • Future: "I will visit you tomorrow."
        "Would": Indicates past habits, conditional actions, or polite requests.
        • Habit: I would take exercise in my youth.
        "Shall": Indicates future actions (primarily used in formal or British English).
        • Future Action: I shall come tomorrow.
        "Should": Indicates advice, obligation, or expectation.
        • Advice: "You should eat healthy food."
        "Must": Indicates necessity or strong obligation.
        • Necessity: "We must finish this project."
        Ought to
        "Ought to": Indicates moral obligation or advisability.
        • Advisability: We ought to finish this project in time. 

        Semi-Modal Verbs

        "Need": Expresses necessity or obligation.
        • Necessity: "You need to finish your homework."
        "Dare": Expresses challenge or permission.
        • Challenge: "How dare you speak to me like that?"
        These auxiliary verbs are used in combination with the main verb to create different verb forms, express shades of meaning, or convey specific grammatical functions in sentences. Their usage helps to convey nuances such as ability, permission, obligation, tense, and mood.
        Quick Recap
        There are 24 verbs in English that help the main verbs to form tense, voice, negative, interrogative, etc. They are:
        am, is, are, was, were
        have, has, had
        do, does, did
        shall, should, will, would, can, could, may, might, must
        dare, need, used to, and ought to