Helping Verbs or Auxiliary Verbs — Knowing the Correct Choice

Verbs are the backbone of every sentence in the English language. A sentence without verbs is like a lemonade without the lemons — it’s incomplete! In English, there are 3 types of verbs.

These are main or action verbs, linking verbs and of course, auxiliary verbs. Or is it helping verbs? Which one is correct? In today’s post, we are going to be focusing on the distinction between helping verbs or auxiliary verbs!

What Are Verbs? What Types of Verbs Are There?

a pile of university textbook assorted on top of each other.
Photo by Clarissa Watson on Unsplash

A verb is typically a word class or part of speech that denotes a state of being or describes an action or occurrence. It can be challenging to comprehend what a verb is, though.

In general, it is more logical to define a verb in terms of what it does rather than what it is. The same verb can play different roles depending on how it’s used, just like the same word can be used as a noun or a verb, like “rain” or “snow,” for example.

In plain English, verbs carry on sentences in a variety of ways. In general, we divide verbs into 3 categories in English. These categories are main verbs (or action verbs), modal verbs, and finally auxiliary verbs. We don’t have time here to go through each of these categories in detail, so we will focus on helping verbs. Well, is it actually helping verbs or auxiliary verbs? This is what we’re going to answer today!

Helping Verbs or Auxiliary Verbs?

As their name suggests, auxiliary verbs aid in the formation of sentences in grammar. 

An auxiliary verb in English grammar is a verb that controls the mood, tense, voice, or aspect of a different verb in a verb phrase. Auxiliary verbs, which you can contrast with primary and lexical verbs, include being, do, and have and modals like can, might, and will.

Due to their assistance in completing the meaning of primary verbs, auxiliaries are also referred to as helping verbs. Auxiliary verbs cannot be the only verb in a sentence, unlike main verbs, unless an elliptical expression implies the main verb.

A verb phrase, like “You will help me,” always has auxiliary verbs before the main verb. However, the auxiliary word is placed in front of the subject in interrogative sentences, as in “Will you help me?”

Some auxiliary verbs are modal verbs as well, while others are not.

How to Tell Auxiliary Verbs and Main Verbs Apart?

Knowing the differences between the two is essential because some of these words can also be used as main verbs. 

First, auxiliary verbs don’t take word endings to form participles or agree with their subjects, so saying “I may go” rather than “I mays go” is correct. Second, helping verbs do not begin with the word “do” and come before negative clauses.

To form the negative, the main verb must use the modal “do,” as in the sentence “We do not dance.”

Additionally, in a question, helping verbs always come before the subject, as opposed to main verbs, which employ “do” and form questions after the subject. As a result, the word “can” in the question “Can I have another apple? “and the word “do” in the question “Do you want to go to the movies? “serve as auxiliary and main verbs, respectively.

The last distinction between the two types of verbs is that auxiliary words, such as “I will call you tomorrow,” can take the infinitive without requiring the phrase “to.” However, main verbs that require an infinitive must always be followed by the word “to,” as in “I promise to call you tomorrow.”

According to English grammar rules, a passive sentence may have four auxiliaries, the first of which must be a nonfinite word and the remaining three limited to a maximum of three in an active sentence.

Final Thoughts

An auxiliary verb is a verb that is used to provide additional help, clarity, and information to the main verb. Examples of auxiliary verbs are the verb “to be” and the verb “to have”. Auxiliary verbs are often imperative verbs, commands, and modal verbs. The question of whether we should use auxiliary or helping verbs is moot, since they both mean the same thing.

If you found this guide helpful and entertaining, or if you have more questions, please let us know!

Abir is a data analyst and researcher. Among her interests are artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing. As a humanitarian and educator, she actively supports women in tech and promotes diversity.

Helping Verbs Guide: Meaning, Types, and Sentence Examples

Verbs are a key part of every good sentence. Main verbs help tie the pieces of a sentence together, while…

September 1, 2022

Exploring the Meaning of the Main Verbs and Examples

English writing requires you to have outstanding expertise in particular grammar rules. These concepts are vital for the reliability and…

September 1, 2022

Transitive Vs. Intransitive Verbs — A Quick Guide

Whether or not an object is necessary for the verb to express a complete thought, a verb is either transitive…

September 1, 2022

Do This Now! List of Imperative Verbs

No one likes to be bossed around by someone else! However, sometimes you have to be bossy to get stuff…

September 1, 2022

Helping Verbs or Auxiliary Verbs — Knowing the Correct Choice

Verbs are the backbone of every sentence in the English language. A sentence without verbs is like a lemonade without…

September 1, 2022

Verbs of Action vs. Auxiliary Verbs

Verbs are a crucial component of every sentence. You cannot communicate a complete thought without verbs. However, did you know…

September 1, 2022