Home » Auxiliary verbs

Auxiliary Verbs

Home » Auxiliary verbs

Auxiliary Verbs

What are auxiliary verbs? 

Auxiliary verbs are essentially “helping verbs”. In English, we use auxiliary verbs to help other normal verbs (verbs that are neither main auxiliaries nor modal auxiliaries), such as, work, tell, talk, walk etc.

Auxiliaries add functional meaning to the phrase in which they are used. 

There are two types of auxiliaries in English:

The main auxiliary verbs

The main auxiliaries in English are: to be, to have, and to do. 

Each of these auxiliaries adds functional meaning to the clause in which it is being used.

By functional meaning, we mean many things, for example:

  • To have is used to form the “perfect forms”, express obligation as well as other meanings.

English is an analytic language

As stated in Verbs in English, English is primarily an analytic language, meaning that it is largely reliant on its usage of auxiliary verbs or “helping verbs” to convey meaning.

For this reason, it’s very important for English learners to make themselves aware of all the rules to do with auxiliaries.

Learning how main auxiliaries work

Learning how English auxiliaries work is paramount, because given that English is an analytic language, you will need to become identified with all the auxiliary verbs as they form the backbone of the language. For example:

To ask a question, emphasize, negate or use ellipsis – to do

Learning how English auxiliaries work is paramount, because given that English is an analytic language, you will need to become identified with all the auxiliary verbs as they form the backbone of the language. For example:

  • Do you know me? = interrogative.
  • No, I don’t know you. = negation.
  • Yes, I do. = ellipsis.

To form all perfect forms, express obligation, and possession – to have

  • I have seen you before. = present perfect. 
  • Daniel has to work on his English. = obligation. 
  • I have a car. = possession.

To form all passive forms, use continuous forms, copulative structures – to be

  • We were visited last week. = passive voice.
  • I am talking to you. = Present continuous. 
  • She is a nice person. = copular verb.

These are but a handful of the rules with examples, so it’s recommended that you check out our pages on to be, to have and to do to make yourself aware of how these auxiliary verbs function in English.