Unit 4.1

To Be: Auxiliary verb


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Introduction

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

To be can be both and an auxiliary verb: to be as a main verb confirms something about the subject and describes its quality, its state or its identity.

To be as an auxiliary verb is used to form the present, the past, the future continuous and the passive form.

Form

The auxiliary verb to be has its own forms in the present, past and future.

Present form

In the present form, we find the verb to be:

  1. before the past participle, in the passive form;
  2. before the verb+ing in the present continuous, and it has three forms:
    affirmative;
    negative;
    interrogative.

Past form

In its past form, we find the verb to be:

  1. before the past participle, in the passive form;
  2. before the verb+ing in the past continuous, and it has three forms:
    affirmative;
    negative;
    interrogative.

Future form

In its future form, we find the verb to be:

after the will and before the verb+ing in the future continuous.

Example

  1. Passive voice of verbs:
    • I am advised to fill up the application now.
    • The flowers aren’t watered by me. 
    • We weren’t told what to do. 
    • Were they requested to come earlier?
  2. Present Continuous, Past Continuous and Future Continuous:
    • I am thinking about him. 
    •  You aren’t spelling that correctly.
    • Am I going in the right direction?
    • She was having a barbecue at her house.
    • wasn’t gardening when it started to rain. 
    • Were you working when she arrived? 
    • It’s early, he will be sleeping.
    • We won’t be attending he party.
    • Will they be driving to London tonight?

Use

We use to be as an auxiliary verb:

  1. to form the passive voice of verbs.
  2. to form present continuous, past continuous and future continuous.

Summary

To be as an auxiliary verb is used to form the present, the past, the future continuous and the passive form.

For example:
— “I am going out for a walk.”  = the verb to be is used to form the present continuous;
— “She was studying all night.” = the verb to be is used to form the past continuous;
— Won’t he be working?” = the verb to be is used to form the future continuous;
— “He was given a gift.” = the verb to be is used to form the passive form.

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

Exercises

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