+91-11-64690378 REGISTER FREE
Resources -> Learn English Grammar -> Verbs -> Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary Verbs

These verbs are also called Helping Verbs, as they ‘help’ the main verb to denote the actions of the subject. They help in making compound tenses of the main verb and also help in making negative statements, questions and passive voice statements. There are only four auxiliary verbs - Be, Have, Will and Do.

BE

The verb ‘be’ can be used as an auxiliary and a full verb, we can distinguish between the two uses as the auxiliary ‘be’ will always have another main verb coming after it in a sentence. ‘Be’ is an irregular verb with many different forms according to the different tenses. Please refer to the Irregular Verbs list to avoid confusion.

Progressive Tense Use of Be:

In progressive tense sentences made with ‘be’, we always use the ‘-ing’ suffixed version of the main verb.

Tense

Meaning

Use of ‘Be’

Present Progressive

The action which is ongoing

She is baking a cake today.

Past Progressive

An action that was ongoing in the past.

She was baking a cake yesterday.

Present Perfect Progressive

Action that began in the past and is still going on.

She has been baking a cake today.

Past Perfect Progressive

Action that started in past and finished at another time in the past.

She had been baking a cake last night.

Passive Voice Use of Be:

Using passive voice means when we want to put the emphasis on the object, to which the action is being done instead of on the subject or not include the subject at all e.g. -

The dishes are washed. - Here the dishes are the object that received the action of washing but no subject is mentioned to show ‘who’ was washing the dishes.

Passive

Use of ‘Be’

Simple Present

The cake is made.

Simple Past

The cake was made.

Present Perfect

The cake has been made.

Past Perfect

The cake had been made.

Future

The cake will be made.

HAVE

The verb ‘have’ can also be used as full verb or a helping verb. The way to differentiate between them is that if ‘have’ is used as an auxiliary verb, then it has to be followed by a main verb as well. The verb ‘have’ is used to make compound tenses in active and passive voices, and also used in the making of negative sentences and questions. It is an irregular verb that changes form according to tense.

Using ‘Have’ in Compound Tenses:

When we use ‘have’ in simple tense with an active voice, we use the ‘-ed’ suffixed form of the main verb unless it is an irregular verb. While for progressive tenses we use the ‘-ing’ suffixed form of the main verb. Have is used for only two compound tenses in the passive voice.

Tense

Meaning

Use of ‘Have’

Present Perfect

Action that happened at unspecified time before now

She has baked a cake.

Past Perfect

Action that happened before another action in the past

She had baked a cake.

Present Perfect Progressive

Action that began in the past and is still going on.

She has been baking a cake.

Past perfect Progressive

Action that started in past and finished at another time in the past.

She had been baking a cake.

Present Perfect (Passive Voice)

Action that happened at unspecified time before now

The cake has been made.

Past Perfect (Passive Voice)

Action that happened before another action in the past

The cake had been made.

Negative Sentences and Questions:

While making negative sentences and questions with ‘have’ as an auxiliary verb, we need to be careful to put ‘have’ before the other verb otherwise ‘have’ becomes the main verb of the sentence.

She does not have a cake.

- In this sentence ‘have’ is the main verb while ‘does not’ becomes the auxiliary verb.

She has not got a cake.

- In this sentence ‘have’ is the helping verb for the main verb which is ‘got’.

Has she got cake?

- Here the main verb is ‘got’ and the helping verb is ‘have’ as it comes before the main verb.

Does she have cake?

- In this sentence the main verb is ‘have’ as it comes after the helping verb ‘does’.

WILL

The verb ‘will’ is the only auxiliary verb that can never be a main verb. It is always used as an auxiliary to make future tenses and negative sentences. Also, it remains the same throughout every tense and person.

Future Tense Use of ‘Will’:

Tense

Meaning

Use of ‘Will’

Future I

An action promised/assumed in the future.

She will not bake a cake.

Future I I

An action that will be finished in the future.

She will have baked a cake.

Negative Sentences:

In negative sentences, the verb ‘will’ does not change its form when used with ‘not’. But it does form the contraction ‘won’t’ that is equally correct to use depending upon the language and flow of the sentence.

She will not have cake. = She won’t have cake.

- As ‘will’ can only be an auxiliary verb, both the sentences are grammatically correct.

DO

The helping verb ‘do’ can also act as a full verb only in positive sentences. When do is used in a negative sentence, it is an auxiliary verb. The helping verb ‘do’ is also used to make questions for most verbs except other auxiliary verbs and the modal verbs. Do is an irregular verb that changes its form according to the tense.

Negative Sentences:

Tense

Meaning

Use of ‘Do’

Simple Present

Action taking place now - once or several times or never.

She does not bake cakes.

Simple Past

Action that happened in the past - once/ many times/ never.

She did not bake cakes.

Questions:

When ‘do’ is used to make a sentence, we can only ask the question in the simple tense. For other tenses, we have to use other verbs whether main or auxiliary.

Tense

Meaning

Use of ‘Do’

Simple Present

Action taking place now - once or several times or never.

Does she bake cakes?

Simple Past

Action that happened in the past - once/ many times/ never.

Did she bake a cake?

Places Where ‘Do’ is Not Used:

There are certain instances where the auxiliary verb ‘do’ is not used for negative sentences or questions. The following table tells the different reasons and instances where and why ‘do’ is not used.

Reason

Negative Sentence

Question

The main verb is ‘Be’

There was no cake.

Is there any cake?

There is another Helping Verb

There won’t be any cake.

Will you have some cake?

There is a Modal Verb

She can’t make a cake

Can she make a cake?

Auxiliary Verb Exercise