Use of Auxiliary Verbs in English

Hi dear English learners. Today’s lesson is about grammar. We will be discussing the use of auxiliary verbs in English. They are very important because they indicate a certain tense and voice and help us to build a sentence correctly. 

We normally use auxiliary verbs for:

  • verb tenses (active and passive)
  • a short answer to a yes/no question
  • echo questions
  • question tags
  • to add emphasis
  • to avoid repeating a verb
  • in expressions ‘so do I’, ‘nor am I’…

Use of auxiliary verbs in English

Use of auxiliaries in verb tenses

There are 3 auxiliary verbs in English. They are to be, to do and to have. We normally use to be in continuous tenses, to do in simple tenses and to have in perfect tenses.

Let’s look at the use of auxiliary verbs be, do and have through different verb tenses.

Auxiliary verb TO DO

TenseStructureExample sentences

Present Simple (negative)

I/you/we/they + do not (don’t) + infinitive
He/she/it + does not (doesn’t) + infinitive

I don’t want to go.
She doesn’t like ice cream.

Present Simple (question)

Do + I/you/we/they  + infinitive
Does + he/she/it? + infinitive

Do you want to dance?
Does he want to play?

Past Simple (negative)

I/you/we/they/he/she/it  + did not (didn’t) + infinitive

They didn’t pay the full price

Past Simple (question)

Did + I/you/we/they/he/she/it  + infinitive

Did you pass the test?
Use of Auxiliary Verbs in English

Auxiliary Verb TO BE

TenseStructureExample sentences

Present Continuous 

am/is/are + present participle
I’m mowing the grass.
Peter isn’t mowing the grass.
Are you mowing the grass?
Past Continuous was/were + present participleI was waiting for 2 hours.
He isn’t waiting.
Were you waiting long?

Future Continuous

will + be + present participle
We will be travelling in the afternoon.
They won’t be travelling.
Will you be travelling?

Present Perfect Continuous 

have/has + been + present participle
They have been studying all morning.
You haven’t been studying.
Has she been studying?

Past Perfect Continuous 

had + been + present participle
We had been walking.
He hadn’t been walking.
Had they been walking?

Future Perfect Continuous

will have + been + present participle

You will have been sleeping.
She won’t have been sleeping.
Will you have been sleeping?

Be going to

To be + going to + infinitive
We are going to lay the table.
They aren’t going to lay the table.
Is Paul going to lay the table?
Use of Auxiliary Verbs in English

Auxiliary verb TO HAVE

TenseStructureExample sentences
Present Perfect have/has  + past participleI’ve sent three emails this morning.
Present Perfect Continuoushave/has + been + present participleSean has been waiting for an hour.
Past Perfecthad + past participleThey had been to the cinema before they came here.
Past Perfect Continuoushad + been + present participleThey had been walking for hours before they reached their destination.
Use of Auxiliary Verbs in English

As you know, we use the auxiliary verb to be in passive constructions. Not all verb tenses can take passive form. 

TenseStructureExample sentences
Present Simple Passiveam/is/are + past participleSara is considered a good actress.
Present Continuous Passiveam/is/are + being + past participleTonya is being obsessed with her new boyfriend.
Past Simple Passivewas/were + past participleSean was born in Wales.
Past Continuous Passivewas/were + being + past participleThe car was not being driven at the time.
Future Simple Passivewill + be + past participleYour parcel will be delivered tomorrow.
Present Perfect Simple Passivehave/has + been + past participleThe Smiths have been invited to the party.
Past Perfect Passivehad + been + past participleThe blinds had been drawn.
Use of Auxiliary Verbs in English

Auxiliary verbs as short answers to yes/no questions

  • Do you want to have a coffee with us? Yes, I do. / No, I don’t.
  • Has Samantha dyed her hair blond? Yes, she has. / No, she hasn’t.
  • Were you about to say something? Yes, I was / No, I wasn’t.
  • Are those people from Brazil? Yes, they are. / No, they aren’t.
  • Had your friends been at the party when you arrived? Yes, they had. / No, they hadn’t.

Use of auxiliary verbs in English

Auxiliary verbs in echo questions

We use echo questions to show interest in the subject or clarify things. 

  • ‘Peter is not coming to work today. ‘ Isn’t he?’
  • ‘We’ve broken the neighbour’s window.’ ‘Have you?’
  • ‘They went on a cruise in the Mediterranean last summer.’ ‘Did they?’

Auxiliary verbs in question tags

We use question tags to ask for agreement or to check if something is true. They are always placed at the end of a sentence. The rule for question tags is – if the sentence is positive, use the negative question tag, and vice versa – if the sentence is negative, use the positive question tag.

  • Adam is Italian, isn’t he?
  • Lorna and Nicolas went to school together, didn’t they?
  • Our neighbours don’t have children, do they?
  • You will help me in the garden, won’t you?
  • You haven’t been waiting in a queue for two hours, have you?

Use of auxiliary verbs in English

Auxiliary verbs to add emphasis

  • ‘You should watch this film. It’s great.’ ‘Well, I have watched that film.’
  • ‘Why didn’t she call a taxi when she realised she was going to be late for an exam?’ ‘She did call a taxi, but there were no available ones.’
  • May I notice that you do look great in that dress?
  • ‘I thought you were studying.’ ‘I am studying! But right now I’m having a lunch break.’
  • ‘Haven’t I told you to tidy your room?’ ‘I did tidy it. Come and take a look.’

Auxiliary verbs to avoid repeating a verb

We normally use auxiliary verbs when we want to avoid repeating the same verb or a verb phrase in the same sentence.

  • John doesn’t speak Spanish but his wife does.
  • We’ve been to Paris, but our children haven’t.
  • My mum never helps me with my homework, but my dad does.
  • Jill isn’t very good at tennis but her brother is.
  • Brazilians speak Portuguese but Mexicans don’t. They speak Spanish.

Use of auxiliary verbs in English

Auxiliary verbs in expressions ‘so do I’, ‘neither/nor am I’,…

When we want to agree with a positive statement, we use so + auxiliary + subject:

  • ‘I hate white chocolate.’ ‘So do I’
  • ‘I went to Argentina last summer.’ ‘What a coincidence! So did I!’

When we want to agree with a negative statement, we use neither/nor + auxiliary + subject:

  • ‘I don’t like having a big breakfast.’ ‘Neither do I.’
  • I’ve never been to Italy. ‘Nor have I.’

When we want to disagree with a positive statement, we use subject + auxiliary + not:

  • ‘We went out last night.’ ‘Oh, we didn’t
  • I worked till late last night.’ ‘Oh, I didn’t. I went to bed early.’

Use of auxiliary verbs in English

When we want to disagree with a negative statement, we use subject + auxiliary:

  • ‘I’ve never liked to live in a house. ‘Oh, I have.
  • ‘I’m not very fond of cooking.’ ‘Oh, I am.
Use of Auxiliary Verbs in English
Use of Auxiliary Verbs in English
Use of Auxiliary Verbs in English
Use of Auxiliary Verbs in English

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