There are various ways in which one can apply emphasis in English such as cleft sentences, auxiliary inversion and punctuation. However, in this lesson, we will learn how to apply English emphasis and no emphasis using the main auxiliary verb to do.
When using normal verbs (non-auxiliary verbs) to make sentences in English, the main auxiliary verb to do can be applied to add emphasis. We can use to do for emphasis equally in the present as well as the past. Let’s take a closer look.
English Emphasis using the main auxiliary verb to do
|No emphasis in the present||Emphasis in the present|
|I swim every day.||I do swim every day.1|
|James loves playing basketball.||James does love playing basketball.2|
|Our dad makes great meals.||Our dad does make great meals.3|
|Henry does a lot of travelling.||Henry does do4 a lot of travelling.|
|You do work at home.||You do do5 work at home.|
|No emphasis in the past||Emphasis in the past|
|You cleaned the dishes.||You did clean the dishes.6|
|They worked long days.||They did work long days.|
|Mary found what she needed.7||Mary did find8 what she needed.|
- I do swim every day: By placing “do” between the subject “I” and the ordinary verb “swim” we are using emphasis. “Do” is used (and not “does”) because “I” is first-person singular.
- James does love playing basketball: “does” is used because “James” is third-person singular.
- Our dad does make great meals: In addition, because we are inserting “does” for emphasis the ordinary verb that follows must take the infinitive form, therefore remove the “s”. It would be incorrect to say our dad does makes great meals = incorrect.
- Henry does do a lot of travelling: The second “do” is in the infinitive form being used as a normal verb, while the first conjugation (does) is in the third-person singular is being used as an auxiliary verb.
- You do do work at home: to clarify, the same rule applies as before; this will mean that you need to use two forms of the verb.
- You did clean the dishes: in the past, there is only one form of to do available, “did”. Moreover, “did” must be followed by an infinitive.
- In “Mary found what she needed” there is no emphasis. This phrase is perfectly correct. Furthermore, if you add “did + find” instead of “found” you would be emphasising.
- “Mary did find what she needed”. Notice how “find” and all the verbs used in the previous example are normal verbs and not auxiliary verbs? This is because we use to do to apply emphasis only to normal verbs and not auxiliary verbs.
English emphasis when the verb is negative
What happens when the sentence is negative? In short, we use the main auxiliary verb to do + not to negate sentences or questions using a normal verb and not auxiliary verbs.
So, let’s take a look at two sentences in the negative, one with no emphasis and the other with emphasis.
- Kate didn’t enjoy her work. = no emphasis.
- Kate did not enjoy her work. = emphasis.
What’s the difference?
The difference is that the second sentence doesn’t use a contraction, that is, by saying:
- “Kate did not enjoy her work”.
- “Kate didn’t enjoy her work”.
In the latter, therefore, we are applying emphasis. This is to say, by not using the contractions with to do (didn’t) (or other such auxiliary verbs such as can, might, should etc.) we make use of emphasis.
We can apply this rule in the past, present, and future (the future for auxiliary verbs like will).
We’ll dig a little deeper.
English emphasis when negating (making verbs negative)
|No emphasis with “to do” in the negative.||Emphasis with “to do” in the negative.|
|Matthew doesn’t exercise much.||Matthew does not1 exercise much.|
|You don’t play the saxophone.||You do not play the saxophone.|
|You don’t do sports.||You do not do sports.|
|We didn’t seek advice.||We did not2 seek advice.|
|You guys didn’t understand.||You guys3 did not understand.|
|No emphasis with other auxiliary verbs||Emphasis with other auxiliary verbs|
|We can’t see you next Thursday.||We cannot4 see you next Thursday.|
|John won’t arrive late.||John will5 not arrive late.|
|David, you shouldn’t have any issues.||David, you should not have any issues.|
|I mayn’t do that.6||I may not do that.|
|I couldn’t make arrangements.||I could not make arrangements.|
- Matthew does not exercise much: Does is used because “Matthew” is third-person singular. While using not instead of don’t emphasis is applied.
- In “we did not seek advice” emphasis is being applied in the past by using did + not. If this sentence were not emphasised it would read “we didn’t seek advice”.
- You guys did not understand: remember, “guys” is a colloquial term to refer to more than one person. Terms like “guys” (British) and “y’all” (Southern American English) are used to distinguish between singular and plural. You can equally not use any terms and just use “you” and you’ll be perfectly understood.
- In “we cannot see you next Thursday” emphasis is applied by not using the contraction. “Can” is a modal auxiliary verb, and the same rule applies.
- John will not arrive late: By not using “won’t” emphasis is applied.
- I mayn’t do that: there’s one catch. With other auxiliary verbs (not to do) when used positively and not negatively, there’s no way to insert emphasis. I.e., you cannot say: “I do may do that”. This sentence is incorrect. Auxiliary verbs do not use to do to negate or add emphasis, only normal verbs can use to do for emphasis and negation.