Auxiliary Verbs – General

Auxiliary Verbs

The definition of “auxiliary” is to provide supplementary or additional help and support. An auxiliary verb therefore is a verb which provides support or help to the main verb. They are used together with a main verb to add extra meaning to a sentence or to add information that is not given by the main verb. They can give tense, mood or voice to the sentence.

Auxiliary verbs include the verbs;

  • Be (am, are, is, was, were, been),
  • Do (does, did),
  • Have (has, had)

These can all act as an auxiliary verb or as the main verb, and they are all irregular verbs.

Modal Verbs

Other auxiliary verbs include the modals. Modal verbs are auxiliary verbs and are often called modal auxiliaries. Unlike other auxiliary verbs modals only exist in their helping form; they do not stand alone as a main verb.

The modal verbs are:-

  • Can
  • Could
  • May
  • Might
  • Must
  • Shall
  • Should
  • Will
  • would

There are a few other auxiliary verbs which are in dispute, these include

  • Ought to
  • need,
  • dare,

Forming Negatives

One of the most important aspects of auxiliary verbs is that they help to form a negative. Look at the following sentences without helping verbs. They are incorrect and do not sound natural.

  • He not wait for me
  • He waited not for me

By adding an auxiliary verb the sentence can make sense.

  • He did not wait for me
  • He has not waited for me
  • He will not wait for me
  • He is not waiting for me

Have and be

The verb forms of be and have help in constructing different tenses. They are used to form the perfect, continuous and perfect continuous tenses.

Perfect tense

  • He has been
  • They have studied
  • He had been
  • They had studied
  • He will have been
  • They will have studied

Continuous tense

  • He was being
  • They were studying
  • He will be being
  • They will be studying
  • He has been being

Perfect Continuous Tense

  • They have been studying
  • He had been being
  • They had been studying
  • He will have been being
  • They will have been studying

“Be” is also used to form the passive voice

  • The mat was sat on by the cat
  • He was greeted by fans at the airport.
  • The computer program was infected by a virus


The auxiliary verb “Do” is always followed by the infinitive form. It is used in negative sentences and to form questions. It is often used as a way of emphasising something.

Used to emphasise

  • I did wait for him
  • You do know the answer
  • She does eat meat

Used in negative sentences:

  • I do not know how to do it.
  • The food doesn’t agree with me.
  • The man didn’t meet them at the train station.

Used in questions:

  • Do you want to have another cup of coffee?
  • Do we want to wait for the next bus?
  • Did you finish your homework?
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