Helping (Auxiliary) Verbs.
Definition. Examples. Quiz: Identify helping verbs
A Verb Phrase consists of a main (non-auxiliary) verb and can have up to three helping (auxiliary) verbs. The main verb is always the last verb in the phrase.
A Main Verb expresses the main action or state of being in the sentence.
- I drive my car every day.
- English verbs are simple.
A Helping Verb is used with main verb to express tenses, aspect, modality, emphasis, etc. or to form a negative or question.
In all following examples below, the main verbs are underlined and the helping verbs are shown in color
- He is learning Spanish Grammar.
- Peter would try that.
- I should have known the answer to that question.
- Steve will have been studying English for more than a year by the time he leaves for US.
- Does Nancy visit her brother?
- They couldn’t write very well.
- He will not take this job.
List of Auxiliary Verbs
- Be - am, are, is, was, were, be, being, been
- Do - do, does, did
- Have - have, has, had, having
- Modal Verbs - shall, will, may, must, might, can, could, would, should
Note that the verbs to be, to do and to have can be main and helping verb in the same sentence.
Verb To Have examples
I have a car.
- have here acts as the main verb
I have bought a car.
- have here acts as a helping verb
I have had a wonderful time driving this car.
- have - helping verb, had – main verb
Verb To Do examples
Peter does homework every day.
- does here acts as the main verb
Peter did not finish his homework.
- did here acts as a helping verb
Peter did not do his homework.
- did - helping verb, do – main verb
Peter did do his homework.
- did - helping verb (used to add emphasis here), do – main verb
Verb To Be examples
I am late.
- am here as the main verb
I am driving a car.
- am here as a helping verb
I am being late again.
- am - helping verb, being – main verb
Helpful hints to remember when identifying helping verbsIn questions, the subject is often placed between the helping verb and the main verb.
- Peter is driving a car.
- Is Peter driving a car?
- Peter did not finish his homework.
- Peter didn't finish his homework.
- I will soon be visiting my parents.
- I would have certainly done it.
Other Types of Verbs
- Transitive vs Intransitive Verbs
- Linking vs Action Verbs
- Helping Verbs
For additional examples please refer to What is a Verb?
For more practice go to Grammar Quizzes