Detailed Guide: Verbs and Auxiliaries

Verbs, like nouns, are crucial components of every sentence. Without either, a complete thought cannot be expressed. There are, however, verbs whose function is to “help” other verbs. These are known as auxiliary verbs.

Auxiliary verbs help paint a complete picture so that that meaning can be more clearly understood. For example, auxiliary verbs can help a verb modify the tense of a sentence to indicate past, present, or future time.

This blog post will focus on how to recognize and employ auxiliary verbs.

magnifying glass on white table
magnifying glass on white table

What is an Auxiliary Verb?

An auxiliary verb serves as a helping verb alongside the primary verb to enhance the meaning of a phrase. It is used to modify the sentence’s tense, tone, or voice. 

Auxiliary verbs can’t make sense in a sentence; they need to be linked to the main verb. There are many auxiliary verbs that you can use along with the other main verbs to perform the different functions of auxiliary. Some of them are: am, is, are, was, were, can, could, might, may, etc.,

For example, for a sentence with the helping verb “could” to make sense, it would also need a main verb.

Take a look at this wrong sentence:

  • “He could not whether he wanted vanilla or strawberry ice cream.”

There is an auxiliary verb, “could,” and an adverb, “not.” But, the auxiliary verb can’t do its job in the sentence without the main verb, “decide.”

The sentence should read: “He could not decide whether he wanted vanilla or strawberry ice cream.” 

The auxiliary verb clarifies that the boy in the statement was incapable of making a decision. This indecision cannot be expressed without the assistance of the auxiliary verb.

Points to Note in the Use of Verbs and Auxiliaries

Auxiliary verbs can serve a variety of purposes within a sentence or context. Auxiliary verbs modify a sentence’s tense, voice, and mood.

A couple of auxiliary verbs can be employed to alter the tense of an action performed by a noun or pronoun. All ‘to be’ forms of verbs, ‘have,’ and ‘will’, indicate distinct tenses.

Utilize the main verb’s gerund (verb+ing) form when employing the forms of ‘to be,’ as gerunds denote continuous action.

Use the past participle forms of the main verbs and the different forms of ‘have’ when employing ‘have’ forms. There is one more consideration you should make.

When ‘have’ and ‘been’ are used together, use the primary verb’s gerund (verb+ing) form. Use a gerund with ‘will be’ to express the future continuous tense.

In conjunction with the auxiliary verbs ‘will’ and ‘have,’ use the past participle form of the main verb to express the future perfect tense.

Auxiliary Verbs for Expressing Mood

The verb forms of the auxiliary verb ‘do’ are employed to convey a sentence’s tone. It is used primarily in imperative and interrogative sentences. Let us look at a few examples.

  • Do you enjoy doing the dishes?
  • Did she do her assignment?
  • Do not allow him to go out without eating.

Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Modal auxiliary verbs can be used as helping verbs and other main verbs for emphasis. It could emphasize the possibility, ability, necessity, or probability of some action. Look at the examples given below for a clear idea of how it works.

Modal Auxiliary Verb: Can, Could, May, Might


  • Can- Can you do it?
  • Could- I could find someone to replace him.
  • May- She may have loved your presentation.
  • Might- Judith might be able to come through for you.

To Wrap Up

This article describes how to use auxiliary verbs to display a variety of moods. It includes information on the modal auxiliary verbs used to express a mood or ask a question

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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