What are auxiliary verbs? Auxiliary verbs are ‘helping’ verbs that are divided into two main categories; The ‘main auxiliaries’ that are; ‘be, have and do’ and the ‘modal auxiliaries’ which are; ‘can, could, may, might, should, must, shall, will, would, ought to, need to and dare to‘. Auxiliary verbs or “helping” verbs in English are: be, have and do. We use auxiliary verbs to add functional meaning to other verbs (non-auxiliary verbs). We can use auxiliary verbs to express, mood, time, negation, obligation, interrogation etc. We cannot use auxiliary verbs with other auxiliary verbs. Auxiliary verbs must be used with normal verbs, such as, go, find, come, write, etc. I.e., I had to leave my house. Had is the past simple of the main auxiliary verb have, and it is joined with the ordinary verb leave. Had, in this case, is expressing an obligation in the past. Dictionary definition of auxiliary verbs: ”accompanying another verb and typically expressing person, number, mood, or tense In; “I will go,” the word “will” is an auxiliary verb”.
- Base form = be
- Present form = am/is/are
- Past form = was/were
- Present participle/gerund = being
- Past participle = been
(1) To be is used to form the passive in English. All passive forms are below:
- Present simple – passive
- Present continuous – passive
- Present perfect – passive
- Present perfect continuous – passive
- Past perfect continuous – passive
- Past continuous – passive
- Past simple – passive
- Past perfect – passive
- Future simple – passive
- Future continuous – passive
- Future perfect – passive
- Future perfect continuous – passive
(2) To be is used to make a sentence attributable, that is, to talk about experiencing very common physical conditions, such as; heat, thirst, cold, hunger, and overall, one’s general well-being. The construction is be + adjective.
- I am hungry.
- She is tired.
- They are happy.
- She was surprised.
Hungry, tired, happy and surprised are all adjectives. We use to be to make sentences attributive.
(3) We use to be to talk about people’s age, height, weight and size plus colours and sizes.
- I am twenty-five years old.
- She is 1.80, which is very tall for a woman.
- They are 100 kilograms.
- My shoes are too big for me.
- The sea is blue and the grass is green.
(4) We use to be to form the present continuous in English (to be + verb + ing):
- Maria is leaving for Athens today.
- Are you working?
- She’s having a great time with us.
English Verbs – The Complete Guide
Lesson #3: to be
- We use the main auxiliary verb be with adjectives. That is, be is used to assign traits/qualities to things or people. I am nice/tall/big/smart/great. Nice, tall, big, smart, and great are all adjectives and all take the auxiliary verb, ‘be’.
- Be is used to talk about a thing or person’s height, age, weight, size, and colour.
- Be is used to form part of continuous/progressive tenses in English. Such continuous tenses are: present continuous (be + gerund), present perfect continuous (have + been + gerund), past continuous (was/were + gerund), past perfect continuous (had + been + gerund), future continuous (will + be + gerund), future perfect continuous (will + have + been + gerund). Gerund = verb + –ing. We’ll elaborate further on the continuous verb tenses in chapter III.
- Be forms part of all passive tenses in English. We will fully elaborate on the passive in chapter IV.
- Hello, good morning sir. How may I help you?
- Good morning. I’m interested1 in buying2 a new smartphone. Are you able3 to help me?
- Yes, of course. What is your budget?
- Well, I’m certainly not rich4 so I can’t afford to pay more than 300.00 euros.
- That’s fine5. I’m sure6 I can find a smartphone within that price range. Smartphones are usually sold7 for less than 300.00 euros anyway. What’s your current smartphone like?
- Well, my current smartphone is very old and slow8. I don’t like the colour of it either. It’s grey9. I want a black one.
- No problem. I’m just looking10 now at the latest offers, and we have one that’s selling11 for 280.00 euros. Would that be suitable for you sir?
- That’s excellent. Thank you very much.
- I’m interested. The verb be, in first person singular is am. Be is being used with the adjective interested. Remember, we use the auxiliary verb, be with adjectives.
- In buying. Prepositions, words like in, out, of, before, after, up, on etc., generally take the verb + ing form (gerund) when the preposition is followed by a verb. I.e., I’m interested in shopping/singing/helping/climbing.
- Are you able. The auxiliary verb be in second person singular are is followed by the adjective able. Be is used with adjectives.
- I’m certainly not rich. Rich is an adjective and it’s used with be.
- That’s fine. Be + adjective.
- I’m sure. Sure is an adjective, hence be.
- Smartphones are usually sold. Be, is being used in the passive voice here (present simple passive voice). The present simple in the passive voice = be + past participle.
- My current smartphone is very old and slow. Be is being used with the adjectives old and slow.
- It’s grey. Grey is an adjective hence be.
- I’m just looking. We use the auxiliary verb be with continuous or progressive tenses in English. Here, the present continuous tense is being used to describe an action happening in the moment. The present continuous tense is be + verb + ing.
- We have one that’s selling. Be is being used in the present continuous tense. Remember, ‘s is the contraction of that is.
Modal auxiliary verbs:
- Articles (a/an, the, zero article)
- Pronouns: subject, object and possessive
- Question tags
- English conditionals
- Interrogatives in English
- Phrasal verbs
- Prefixes and suffixes
- Reported and direct speech
- Punctuation: apostrophes, colons, semi-colons, commas, dashes, full stops, question marks, exclamation marks, and quotation marks
- Numbers: cardinal, ordinal, and Roman numbers
- The verb: “get”
- ‘Get’ vs. ‘go’ and ‘got’ vs. ‘gotten’
- Copular verbs
- Cleft sentences
- Subjunctive in English
- Vulgar and taboo in English
- Split infinitive
- Emphasis with inversion
- Gerunds in English
- To + infinitive
- Bare infinitive
- British and American spelling