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Auxiliary Verbs and Helping Verbs

Aug 30, 2022

Read the following sentences: 

  • He is looking for a job. 
  • I have submitted the assignment last week. 
  • I was playing football when you called. 

The sentences were completed by adding the appropriate verbs in the sentences. But, did you notice the presence of an is, have, and was in sentences 1, 2, and 3, respectively? 

What are these verbs that precede the main action verbs in these sentences called? 

They are called auxiliary verbs/helping verbs

Auxiliary verbs, also known as the helping verbs, are used with the main verbs, and they help in expressing the tense, voice, or mood. 

When the verbs be(is, are, am, was, were), have(have, has, had), and do(do, does, did) are used with ordinary verbs to make tenses, passive voices, questions, and negatives, they become auxiliary verbs


Now it must have struck you that auxiliary verbs find their way into the majority of the sentences that are framed in English. Though known as helping verbs, they play a rather bigger part in the formation of sentences other than helping the main verbs. 

 They add functional or grammatical meaning to the clause in which they appear, expressing tense, aspect, modality, voice, emphasis, and so on. 

Auxiliary verbs are usually used in conjunction with an infinitive verb or a participle, which give away the main semantic content of the clause.  

Action verbs and linking verbs along with the auxiliary verbs, complete the trio of verbs that add grammatical meaning to the clauses in which they occur. 

Now, let us take a look at the uses of auxiliary verbs


When the verbs be, have, and do are used with the main verbs to make tenses, voices, or mood, they are called auxiliary verbs

Their usages in sentences are as follows: 


Be appears in the following forms: 

Is, are, am, was, were, being, been, will be. 

1. We use the auxiliary be in the formation of continuous tenses, like; 

  • He was sleeping. 
  • I am cooking. 
  • She is eating. 
  • He will be waiting outside. 

2. The auxiliary be is used to form passive voice, like: 

  • The ticket window was closed. 
  • The parcel is delivered. 
  • He is being interrogated by the manager. 

3. When be is followed by the infinitive (the base form of the verb), it is used: 

a. To indicate a plan, arrangement, or an agreement, like: 

  • She is to meet the teacher during the break. 
  • They are to be married this week. 

b. To denote a command, like: 

  • Dad said that you are to visit the postoffice right away. 
  • You were to submit the assignment last week. 


Have appears in the following forms: 

Has, have, had, having, will have. 

1. We generally use the auxiliary have to form perfect tenses, like; 

  • I have reached. 
  • She has written a poem. 
  • They had reached the party after it was over. 
  • We will have left by the time you reach here. 

2. Have to is used with the infinitive to express obligation, like; 

  • I have tobe there for the meeting by 5PM. 
  • He has tohelp his mother in a situation like this. 

3. The past form of the verb have to, which is had to is used to indicate obligation in the past like; 

  • I had to be there for the meeting by 5PM. 
  • He had to help his mother in a situation like that. 

4. Have is used in negatives and question with do, does, and did, like: 

  • I have to go. 
  • I don’t have to go. 
  • Do I have to go? 
  • He has to go. 
  • He doesn’t have to go. 
  • Did he have to go? 
  • We had to go. 
  • We didn’t have to. 
  • Did we have to go? 


Do appears in the following forms: 

Does, do, did, will do. 

We use the auxiliary do to mainly express mood. 

1. Interrogative mood: 

  • Did you see my wallet anywhere? 
  • Do you watch baseball? 
  • Does he cook well? 

2. Negative mood: 

  • He didn’t find my wallet anywhere. 
  • I don’t watch baseball. 
  • He doesn’t cook well. 

3. Do is used to emphasize the affirmative nature of a statement, like: 

  • You do look happy. 
  • He did attend the function even after being asked to stay away. 

A quick recap: 

Auxiliary Verbs

Help to express tense, mood, or voice


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