Primary Verbs List: Auxiliary and Modal Forms

A primary verb is a word that describes an action and is an entire verb phrase. Such words are often used in the formation of other verbs.

Primary verbs often do not have stative or progressive forms. They are grammaticalized when they take the functions of auxiliary verbs.

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Primary Auxiliary Verbs

A verb that cannot stand alone and retain a clear meaning is an auxiliary verb. An auxiliary verb helps to modify the meaning of a sentence. 

Some examples are:

  • She can
  • They went
  • We are
  • She cooks

We do not know exactly what sentences 1 and 3 mean unless we find some more information. We need to know what she can do and What We are or are doing. In contrast, Sentences 2. and 4. are complete in themselves and need no further elaboration. In these examples, the verbs can and are helping verbs, while the verbs went and smokes are the main verbs. This is a significant difference.

Auxiliary verbs can be recognized by their grammatical features and meaning, which we’ve already examined. 

Primary auxiliary verbs, on the other hand, are easier to spot because they have three essential roles in language:

1. Primary auxiliary verbs form tenses of verbs

  • David has arrived 
  • He is running the empire
  • The drink will run out soon

2. They switch a clause’s voice from active to passive or active to causative.

  •  The kitchen was tidied (vs. Someone tidied the kitchen) 
  • The truck got struck by a falling tree (vs. A falling tree struck the truck)
  • She had her nails cut (vs. Someone cut her nails) 
  • She got her jewelry stolen (vs. Someone stole her jewelry)

3. They pose inquiries, make negative remarks, and make strong statements.

  • Do you want to share with us? 
  • He didn’t see any reason 
  • We do like her

Only the auxiliary verb serves this purpose. However, before we begin, three considerations must be addressed.

Top Considerations for Auxiliary Verbs

1. There are two types of auxiliary verbs in English: primary auxiliary and modal auxiliary.

Modal Auxiliary verbs include can, may, should, should, ought to, and so on. These verbs represent ideas like a possibility, permission, obligation, and likelihood, among others.

2. Some primary auxiliary verbs can also act as helping verbs. Verbs can be either lexical or primary verbs and still serve as auxiliaries. 

For instance, the verbs get, do, will, be, and have are bidirectional. Do you know which belongs to which?

  • We got home early
  • They got their hair done
  • He did the assignment in three minutes
  • Did he arrive?
  • Chris willed the car to stop
  • Chris will be 25 on Tuesday

3. A modal verb is a verb that is used to describe actions in connection to speculation. Can, Could, Could Not, May, Might, Must, Should, and Would are examples of modal verbs.

Some auxiliaries (e.g., will) are modal yet frequently provide grammatical information by generating a tense with a primary verb. 

As a result, some individuals consider will and would to be Primary Auxiliary verbs. This is a reasonable approach because both verbs can act in both directions. 

We include the verb will, its alternative shall, and its past form would in this guide. The fact that they also function as a modal auxiliary verb causes a lot of difficulty for students, professors, and even coursebook writers.

Function of Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs are sometimes called “helping verb.” Primary Auxiliaries are helpful because they tell us about grammar and how to look at the lexical or main verb that comes next.

The first thing to know about this verb is that it is often used as a main verb or lexical verb in sentences like:

  • He did the work carefully. 
  • They do that a lot.

In these situations, the verb means to do something or to perform an action. As a lexical verb, do can mean other things, but that’s not what we’re interested in here.

The second thing to remember is that this verb is only a Primary Auxiliary verb in the simple present and simple past tenses.

Because of this, it is often called an “operator” because it can work on the main verb. For example, in the sentence 

  • “He does enjoy cooking.” 

The verb gets the ending (es) that would normally go on the lexical verb (enjoys). In this case, it makes the verb enjoy stand out. 

To Wrap Up

A primary verbs list recaps the most common auxiliary verbs, followed by their primary context. It provides the associated primary auxiliary verb and its meaning.

Auxiliary verbs create tense grammatical changes for verbs. They are also referred to as copular verbs or linking verbs.

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.

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