Unit 4.1

Auxiliary Verbs

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Introduction

An auxiliary verb is a helping verb that has no meaning on its own but gives functional and grammatical meaning to the main verb.

A main verb, on the other hand, expresses an action and gives information about the nature of the action.

The verbs to be, to do, and to have can all be used as main verbs, but they are also used as primary auxiliary verbs to build certain tenses or grammatical forms.

Form

The primary auxiliary verbs in English are to be, to do and to have. They can be used both as main verbs and as auxiliary verbs.
We use them as main verbs:
  • followed by an adjective, a noun, a pronoun or an adverb;
  • with other auxiliaries or even the same verb as an auxiliary when forming them in some tenses.

We use them as auxiliary verbs:

  • before main verbs;
  • in negative forms;
  • in interrogative forms;
  • in question tags; {see Question Tags formation, A2 level}
  • in emphatic forms;
  • in perfect and progressive tenses

Example

As main verbs:

  • He is rich.
  • did yoga this morning.
  • We were having breakfast together.

As auxiliary verbs:

  • amthinking about you.
  • Did you watch the football match yesterday?
  • He has gone to the beach.

Use

We can use the verbs to be, to do and to have in two different ways: as main verbs or as primary auxiliary verbs.

We use them as main verbs:

  • to give information about the action;
  • to confirm something about the subject (verb to be);
  • to perform or complete an action (verb to do);
  • to express possession (verb to have).

We use them as auxiliaries in combination with other verbs to:

  • form negation
  • to form questions
  • to create emphatic forms
  • to form some tenses

Summary

Auxiliary verbs are helping verbs that have no meaning on their own but give functional and grammatical meaning to the main verbs. In contrast to the main verbs, they don’t expresses an action.

The verbs to be, to do, and to have can be used as main verbs, but also as primary auxiliary verbs to build certain tenses or grammatical forms. We use them as main verbs before adjectives, nouns, pronouns or adverbs, to give information about the action, to confirm something about the subject (with the verb to be), to perform or complete an action ( with the verb to do) and to express possession (with the verb to have). As auxiliary verbs, we use them before the main verbs to form negation and questions, to create emphatic forms, to form question tagsand to form present and progressive tenses.

For example:
“I am not working right now.” = We use the auxiliary am to form the negative form of a progressive tense.
— “They do like pizza.”
= We use the auxiliary do to form the affirmative of an emphatic form.
“Bob has the keys to her apartment.” = We use the main verb has followed by a noun, to express possesion.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.

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