Auxiliary Verbs and How To Use Them
When it comes to answering the question, “What is the most important part of speech?” Most grammarians agree that the answer is “Verbs.” Why? For the most part, without verbs, there would be no sentences. Verbs are words that show that something exists. They also express time while showing an action or a condition. For example, the verb in “Beto teaches dance,” shows an action. Next, in “Trophies are on display,” the verb shows a condition. Lastly, in “She is here,” the verb shows a condition. Now, there are many types of verbs: action verbs, linking verbs, and auxiliary verbs.
In this lesson, we will be discussing auxiliary verbs, also known as helping verbs.
First of all, what are auxiliary verbs? Auxiliary verbs are verbs that can be added to another verb to make a verb phrase. Often, a single verb can be formed by as many as four words. A verb phrase contains a verb and its object. Take for example the verb sung. To make a verb phrase, the auxiliary verb had may be added to form the verb phrase had sung. Take a look at these other examples:
- am + cooking
- did + kiss
- can + swim
- will be + coaching
- should have + cleaned
- may + imprison
Recognizing Auxiliary Verbs
Most auxiliary verbs are variations of the verb be. So, it is important to be familiar with the many forms of this verb. The following are forms of the verb be:
Aside from the verb be, the following words may also be used as auxiliary verbs:
Another key point, helping verbs can add new meaning to other verbs. In the following examples, take note of how each helping verb changed the meaning of the sentence.
WITHOUT HELPING VERB: They sing in the morning.
WITH HELPING VERB: They will sing in the morning.
WITHOUT HELPING VERB: I attend summer school.
WITH HELPING VERB: I might attend summer school.
WITHOUT HELPING VERB: The river freezes during the winter.
WITH HELPING VERB: The river can freeze during the winter.
WITHOUT HELPING VERB: She travels alone.
WITH HELPING VERB: She can travel alone.
WITHOUT HELPING VERB: Latrice sews her own costumes.
WITH HELPING VERB: Latrice should sew her own costumes.
WITHOUT HELPING VERB: Jim writes elegant poetry.
WITH HELPING VERB: Jim will write elegant poetry.
WITHOUT HELPING VERB: The restaurant offers catering services.
WITH HELPING VERB: The restaurant may offer catering services.
WITHOUT HELPING VERB: Reginald oversees the project.
WITH HELPING VERB: Reginald should oversee the project.
WITHOUT HELPING VERB: Sarah sings for the president.
WITH HELPING VERB: She did sing for the president.
WITHOUT HELPING VERB: Wolves hunt in packs.
WITH HELPING VERB: Wolves may hunt in packs.
How to Use Auxiliary Verbs
Meanwhile, aside from changing the meaning of sentences, auxiliaries can also be combined with verbs to specify time and voice.
First of all, the verb to be and all its forms are used to create the progressive tenses of a verb. The progressive tense describes an action that happens continuously over a period of time. Past progressive tense shows an action that happened for some time in the past. Next, the present progressive tense shows an action that is currently in progress. And lastly, the future progressive tense shows an action that will be happening at some point in the future.
Firstly, use was or were to form the past progressive tense.
- Children were playing on the streets before they turned to use gadgets for entertainment.
- Josie was sleeping when the earthquake happened.
Secondly, use is or are to form the present progressive tense.
- Gomez is watching Better Call Saul.
- My co-workers and I are preparing for the office party.
Lastly, use will be to form the future progressive tense.
- My sister will be graduating in June.
- By next year, we will be flying to the Bahamas.
Shall, Should, Will
Firstly, use shall to ask and pose questions.
- Shall I tell you what I think of you?
- Shall we take a vacation to Hawaii?
Secondly, use shall to express an obligation or responsibility.
- I shall call the mayor’s office tomorrow.
- As your teacher, I shall make sure you learn the topic with ease.
Next, use should when giving advice.
- People should start saving while they are young.
- You have a pretty face. You should be a model.
Next, use should to show probability.
- The weather is starting to change, summer should be starting soon.
- Mary has been taking karate lessons. She should be able to defend herself.
Lastly, use will to specify the simple future tense of a verb.
- I will graduate from college next year.
- Julia will visit tomorrow.
Did, Do, Does
Use do to form the emphatic tense. In other words, use do in asking a question, or for emphasis.
- Do you want to come to the party?
- Yes, I do want to attend the gala.
Secondly, use does for third-person, and singular subjects in the present tense. Use does in asking a question, or for emphasis.
- Does she live here?
- Oh! She does care!
Lastly, did is the past tense of do. Use did in asking a question, or for emphasis.
- Did the police come?
- No, I did not call them.
Had, Has, Have
Meanwhile, the verb to have and all its forms are used to make the present perfect and past perfect tenses. Present perfect tense shows that something that happened in the past is still happening in the present. On the other hand, the past perfect tense shows an action that happened before another action was completed.
Firstly, use has or have to form the present perfect tense of a verb.
- Daisy has ridden the bus to work for five years.
- I have washed the dishes since I was twelve.
- He has always brought his own lunch to work.
Meanwhile, use had to form the past perfect tense of a verb.
- Betty had arrived at school when Archie called to offer her a ride.
- Mom had prepared breakfast when we finally woke up.
Lastly, use have to show probability or possibility.
- You could have brought your umbrella if only you saw the weather report.
- The mall might have been full of people yesterday because of the sale.
In general, different auxiliary verbs will still work better under certain conditions. So in conclusion, as a student of the English language, be sure to challenge yourself to figure out which auxiliary verb works best and fits your needs.
So, do you think you understood this lesson well? Check your level of comprehension by answering this short quiz. Don’t forget to share your results with us in the comments!
TRUE or FALSE: Majority of auxiliary verbs are variations of the verb “to be.”
Most auxiliary verbs are variations of the verb be. So, it is important to be familiar with the many forms of this verb.
TRUE or FALSE: Auxiliary verbs add new meaning to other verbs and are also known as helping verbs.
Auxiliary verbs are also known as helping verbs. They add new meaning to other verbs.
TRUE or FALSE: The verb “shall” is used to show probability.
Use the verb “shall” to ask questions or to show responsibility and obligation.
TRUE or FALSE: The verb “to have” is used to form the empathic tense.
The verb “to have” and all its forms are used to make the present perfect and past perfect tenses.
TRUE or FALSE: The verb “is” is used to form the present progressive tense.
The verbs “is” and “are” are used to form the present progressive tense.
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