Knowing more about auxiliary verbs and how they are used in English will definitely help you to improve your English grammar.
In this lesson, you’ll learn my top tips to use these important ‘helping’ verbs correctly and dramatically improve your English grammar! 🙌🏼
A quick summary:
The auxiliary verb DO exists in the simple tenses.
The auxiliary verb BE exists in the continuous tenses – and in the passive voice
And the auxiliary verb HAVE exists in the perfect tenses.
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This English lesson is all about auxiliary verbs or you might recognise them if I say “helping verbs”, verbs that help the main verb in an English sentence.
So why are they so important?
Knowing a little more about auxiliary verbs will help you to improve your English grammar because the relationship between an auxiliary verb and a main verb is very clear, plain and simple in English.
The auxiliary verb, “do”, exists in the simple tenses. The auxiliary verb, “be”, exists in the continuous tenses and the auxiliary verb “have” exists in the perfect tenses.
Now before we do anything else this lesson, just stop for a moment and think about this because this information is golden! It’s really valuable information. As you’re checking your writing after completing an IELTS exam or checking an email before you send it to your customers, these simple reminders need to be in your mind.
Now auxiliary verbs are a really interesting part of the English language. There’s quite a few things that you need to know about them, about grammar, about pronunciation, about writing, about speaking.
So I want to make three things clear to you first. There are three main auxiliary verbs in English: “do”, “be” and “have”.
Modal verbs are also considered auxiliary verbs but there are different grammar rules for modal verbs. In this lesson, we’re focusing on “do”, “be” and “have”.
These auxiliary verbs can also be used as main verbs.
She didn’t do it!
He’s being annoying.
I’ve had three.
Number two. When you’re using English verbs, whether it’s a sentence with only a main verb or there’s an auxiliary verb, they must agree with the subject. You need to choose the right verb form for the subject in your sentence.
He is leaving.
They are leaving.
I am leaving.
The auxiliary verb must match the main verb.
Now if you want to learn more about subject-verb agreement, then check out this video that I made about it, right here.
Number three. Auxiliary verbs in positive sentences are function words, not content words. This means that they’re usually unstressed when they’re spoken. Unstressed words in English are often reduced or contracted when they’re spoken out loud in English so they can be difficult to hear.
I’m shopping with my friends.
He’s taking his time.
I’ve bought you some fruit.
Now in negative sentences, auxiliary verbs are usually stressed but often, they’re contracted with “not“.
I didn’t like it.
We haven’t been there yet.
Notice that when the sentence is negative, you can contract the auxiliary verb with “not” or you can also contract the auxiliary to the subject.
We’ve not been there yet.
Learning how to contract auxiliary verbs in English is instantly going to make you sound more relaxed and natural when you speak. It’s much more natural to say “He’s not coming.” or “He isn’t coming.” than “He is not coming.“
Okay! Time to look at some examples, starting with “do“.
“Do” is the auxiliary verb used in the simple tenses in English, “do” and “does” in the present tense and “did” in the past tense. In the future forms, with “will” and “going to“, we use the infinitive form only, “do“.
We eat fish on Fridays.
They don’t want to.
He doesn’t eat meat.
Did you like it?
Doesn’t Paul know about it?
I’ll do it later.
She will do it first.
Now take a moment to think about these examples and to think about what I mentioned earlier. The subject-verb agreement rules. How the verb form changes depending on the subject and the contractions. What you hear so often in spoken English and what you see in informal writing are these contractions.
Also notice that in the very first example we can’t see the auxiliary verb “do“. In the present tense, in negative sentences and in questions then yes – of course – you must use the auxiliary verb “do” or “does” or “don’t” or “doesn’t“.
We don’t eat fish on Fridays.
Do you eat fish on Fridays?
But in positive sentences in the present tense, the auxiliary verb is often omitted. It’s often left out because it’s unnecessary. The sentence, “We eat fish on Fridays” is exactly the same as the sentence “We do eat fish on Fridays“
Often when “do” is included, it’s to add emphasis to the sentence, to make something clear. Like in this context,
“You guys don’t eat fish.”
“We do eat fish! We eat it every Friday!”
Okay! Let’s move on and talk about “be“.
“Be” is the auxiliary verb used in the continuous or the progressive tenses. “Am“, “are” or “is” in the present continuous tense and “was” and “were” in the past continuous tense. In the future forms, we only use the infinitive “be“. Of course, the main verb in the continuous tenses is always using the “-ing” form. But the “be” verb, the auxiliary verb, will always be there, helping out.
We are following your brother.
I am trying to call him now.
It isn’t raining at the moment.
Is he bringing his friend?
Aren’t we taking Sara?
He will be presenting at 3:00 p.m.
Will you be going to work today?
Again, stop for a moment and have a look at these examples.
The subject-verb agreement so how the verb form is always changing depending on the subject and the tense and the contractions. Often in spoken English or informal writing, you’ll see these contractions.
Now the “be” verb is also used as an auxiliary verb in the passive voice in sentences like “I was given three minutes to finish.” So it’s not always with a verb that’s in the continuous form. Here, the “be” verb is used with the main verb in the past participle form.
Lastly, “have“. “Have” is the auxiliary verb used in the perfect tenses. “Have” and “has” in the present perfect tense and “had” in the past perfect tense. In the future forms, we use the infinitive form only, “have” with “will” or “going to“.
Now, of course, the main verb in the perfect tenses is in past participle form. And I’ve made quite a few lessons about the present perfect tense so you can check them out here if you need to.
So in the present perfect tense, your main verb is in the past participle form and the auxiliary verb “have” is always going to be there, helping out.
Kate has taken the car.
We have tried it many times.
It hasn’t arrived yet.
Have they brought the umbrella?
We have been waiting for hours!
He will have finished by 3:00 p.m.
Again, let’s check what’s happening here. The subject-verb agreement. So the verb is always changing depending on the subject and the tense and check out these contractions.
Kate’s taken the car.
We’ve tried it many times.
Well that’s it for this lesson! I hope that it’s been really helpful for you because understanding the role of the auxiliary verb in English, it’s challenging, but it’s really important and I hope that this lesson showed you that the way auxiliary verbs are used in English is reasonably consistent. It’s just about becoming familiar with the way that sentences function.
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Since we just practised a whole lot of English grammar, why don’t you mix it up a bit and practise your English pronunciation and speaking skills in either of these two fabulous lessons?
Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time. Bye for now!