Auxiliary Verbs in English Grammar

Parts Of Speech

Auxiliary Verbs (from the Latin auxilio = to help; they are also known as helping verbs) are verbs‏‎ used to change the tense, form‏‎ mood and voice of other verbs.

In other words, we add an auxiliary to a verb to turn it into a question, to put it into the past, to make it negative and so on.

The 3 English Auxiliaries Verbs

There are three auxiliary verbs: be, have and do.

They are used before the main verb to make different verb forms, negatives‏‎ and questions‏‎. One or more auxiliary verbs can be used together.

Different verb forms are made thus:

{auxiliary} + [auxiliary] + {main verb}

She has + been + waiting for three hours.
We had + talked for over an hour.

The only verb forms where we do not use an auxiliary verb are the present simple‏‎ and the past simple‏‎.

Negative statements are made thus:

{auxiliary} + {not} + [auxiliary] + {main verb}

They have + not + been + waiting long.
He is + not + living here anymore.

To make questions we use this pattern:

{auxiliary} + {subject} + [auxiliary] + {verb}

Has + he + been + watching television?
Do + you + want
a cup of tea?

Note that we can also use be, have and do as lexical verbs, that is, using them as a simple verb and not using them as auxiliary verbs:

I am English.
They have thirteen cats in their house.
She did it!

Useful Links

The ICAL Grammar Foundation Course – a course in English grammar.

Verbs in English Grammar – an overview of verbs in English

Related Articles

6 Tips to Make your ESL Classes More Effective

Teaching is undeniably a challenging job, in fact many consider it one of the most difficult careers you could choose. Nevertheless, being a teacher is an enriching experience. Through quality education and effective teaching methodologies,...

read more

ICAL TEFL Resources

The ICAL TEFL site has thousands of pages of free TEFL resources for teachers and students. These include: The TEFL ICAL Grammar Guide. Country Guides for teaching around the world. How to find TEFL jobs. How to teach English. TEFL Lesson Plans....

read more