Helping Verbs (Auxiliary Verbs)

Helping verbs, also known as auxiliary verbs, play a crucial role in forming sentences and conveying meaning. While often overlooked, these small but mighty words are essential for constructing clear and coherent sentences. In this article, we will look into helping verbs, explore their functions, and understand how they enhance our communication.


What Are Helping Verbs?

Helping verbs, or auxiliary verbs, are words that work alongside the main verb in a sentence to add more meaning and detail. They assist in conveying tense, mood, voice, and emphasis in a sentence. In English, the primary helping verbs are “be,” “have,” and “do.” These helping verbs can further be divided into two categories: primary auxiliaries and modal auxiliaries.


Primary Auxiliaries

  1. Be: This includes forms like “am,” “is,” “are,” “was,” and “were.” It is used to indicate the continuous or progressive tenses and passive voice.

Example: She is singing beautifully. Example: The book was written by the author.

  1. Have: This includes forms like “have,” “has,” “had.” It is used to indicate perfect tenses.

Example: They have completed their homework. Example: She had finished her meal.

  1. Do: This includes forms like “do,” “does,” “did.” It is used for forming questions and negatives in simple present and past tenses.

Example: Do you like chocolate? Example: He didn’t attend the meeting.


Modal Auxiliaries

Modal auxiliaries, such as “can,” “could,” “may,” “might,” “shall,” “should,” “will,” “would,” “must,” and “ought to,” add nuances to the meaning of the main verb, expressing possibility, necessity, permission, or obligation.

Example: You must complete your assignment on time. Example: She can play the piano beautifully.


Functions of Helping Verbs

  1. Expressing Tense: Helping verbs are used to indicate whether an action is taking place in the present, past, or future. They help establish the timeline of an event.

  2. Forming Questions and Negatives: In English, helping verbs are vital for constructing questions and negative sentences. They allow for a smooth flow of conversation and clear communication.

  3. Emphasizing Ideas: Modal auxiliary verbs can emphasize the likelihood, ability, necessity, or obligation of an action, adding depth and specificity to sentences.

  4. Expressing Mood: Helping verbs are instrumental in conveying the mood of a sentence, whether it’s a statement, a command, a request, or a suggestion.


List of Examples of Helping Verbs

Here is a list of examples of helping verbs (auxiliary verbs) in English:

1. Be (Primary Auxiliary Verbs):

  • am
  • is
  • are
  • was
  • were
  • being
  • been


2. Have (Primary Auxiliary Verbs):

  • have
  • has
  • had
  • having


3. Do (Primary Auxiliary Verbs):

  • do
  • does
  • did
  • doing


4. Modal Auxiliary Verbs:

  • can
  • could
  • may
  • might
  • shall
  • should
  • will
  • would
  • must
  • ought to

These helping verbs play various roles in forming sentences, indicating tense, mood, voice, and emphasis, as explained in the previous article.