Auxiliary Verbs - Explore Definition, Usage and Examples

Learn the definition of an auxiliary verb and how to use auxiliary verbs in sentences. Go through the examples and try out the practice exercises to have a better idea of the same.

Table of Contents

What is an Auxiliary Verb?

An auxiliary verb is a verb that is used as a helping verb along with the main verb in a sentence to make it more meaningful. It is used to alter the tense, mood or voice of the sentence.

Definition of an Auxiliary Verb

An auxiliary verb is “a verb such as be, do, and have used with main verbs to show tense, etc. and to form questions, and negatives”, according to the Oxford Learners’ Dictionary.

The Macmillan Dictionary defines auxiliary verbs as “the verbs ‘be’, ‘do’, and ‘have’ in English, when they are used with another verb to form tenses, questions, question tags, and the passive. For example, in the sentences ‘I am listening’, ‘Are you working?’, ‘You don’t like her, do you?’ and ‘The bill has been paid’, ‘am’, ‘are’, ‘do’, and ‘has been’ are all auxiliaries.”

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an auxiliary verb is “a verb that is used with another verb to form tenses, negatives, and questions. In English, the auxiliary verbs are ‘be’, ‘have’, and ‘do’.”

Examples of Auxiliary Verbs

Here is a list of auxiliary verbs that you can use along with the other main verbs to perform the different functions of auxiliary.

  • Am
  • Is
  • Are
  • Was
  • Were
  • Have
  • Has
  • Had
  • WIll
  • Would
  • May
  • Might
  • Can
  • Could
  • Shall
  • Should
  • Must
  • Ought to
  • Need
  • Do
  • Did

How to Use Auxiliary Verbs?

Auxiliary verbs can be used to perform different functions in a sentence or a context. Auxiliary verbs act as helping verbs to alter the tense, voice and mood of a sentence. Let us look at how these verbs act to fulfil each of these characteristics.

Auxiliary Verbs Used to Alter the Tense of the Sentence

There are particularly a few auxiliary verbs that can be used to change the tense of the action being performed by the subject (noun or pronoun) in a context. All ‘to be’ forms of verbs, all forms of ‘have’, and forms of ‘will’ are used to denote different tenses.

Points to Remember

  • When using the forms of ‘to be’, make sure you use the gerund (verb+ing) form of the main verb as they are used to indicate continuous action.
  • When using forms of ‘have’, see to it that you use the past participle forms of the main verbs along with the different forms of ‘have’. There is one other thing that you should keep in mind. When the auxiliary verbs ‘have’ and ‘been’ are used together to represent the perfect continuous tense, see to it that you use the gerund (verb+ing) form of the main verb in that particular sentence.
  • When using the auxiliary verb ‘will’ to denote the simple future tense, see to it that you use the root verb as such along with ‘will’ and a gerund (verb+ing) along with ‘will be’ to indicate the future continuous tense. Make sure you employ the past participle form of the main verb when it is used to indicate the future perfect tense along with the auxiliary verbs, ‘will’ and ‘have’.

Let us look at the following examples to learn how to use them in sentences effectively.

Root Verb

Auxiliary Verb

Tense Form

Examples

To be

Am

Present Continuous (Singular)

I am watching the match.

Is

Present Continuous (Singular)

He is having his lunch.

Are

Present Continuous (Plural)

They are going to Dubai.

Was

Past Continuous

(Singular)

Seetha was drinking water.

Were

Past Continuous

(Plural)

The children were playing pictionary.

Have

Have

Present Perfect

They have come to India after five years.

Has

Present Perfect (Third person pronoun – ‘He’, ‘She’ and ‘It’)

Tharun has finally found the keys to his car.

Had

Past Perfect

Neena and Vijay had brought their pet along with them when they came to have dinner with us.

Have been

Present Perfect Continuous

I have been waiting for my interview results since last week.

Has been

Present Perfect Continuous

(Third person pronoun – ‘He’, ‘She’ and ‘It’)

Firoz has been working as a doctor in Uttar Pradesh for a year now.

Had been

Past Perfect Continuous

Heera and Diana had been waiting to visit the Museum of Fine Arts from the day they reached Bangalore.

Will

Will

Simple Future

I assure you that I will finish all my assignments by Friday.

Will be

Future Continuous

She will be attending the Parent-Teacher meeting next week.

Will have

Future Perfect

They will have reached London by this time tomorrow.

Auxiliary Verbs used to Alter the Voice of the Verb

All forms of ‘to be’, ‘have’ and ‘will’ can be used as auxiliary verbs to represent the voice of the verb in a sentence. Let us look at some examples of how these auxiliary verbs can be used.

Root Verb

Auxiliary Verb

Examples

To be

Is

Football is played by Garry.

Are

Chocolates are liked by most children.

Was

Any sort of amendments to the bill was refused by the judge.

Were

The documents for the loan proposal were being checked by the banking officials.

Have

Have been

All the neighbours have been invited to the birthday party by Raam Kumar.

Has been

He has been checked by the doctor.

Had been

The workers had been sent to protest against low wages by the company.

Will

Will be

The bus will be boarded by me at 8:30 p.m. tonight.

Will have

The solution to the problem will have been delivered by the authorities, this time tomorrow.

Auxiliary Verbs used to Express the Mood

The verb forms of the auxiliary verb ‘do’ are used to express the mood of a sentence. It is mostly used in imperative and interrogative sentences. Let us look at some examples.

  • Do your children enjoy watching educational films?
  • Did she complete the work that was assigned to her?
  • Do not forget to bring the Bluetooth speaker when you come home tonight.

Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Modal auxiliary verbs can be used as helping verbs along with other main verbs to emphasise on the possibility, ability, necessity or probability of some action taking place. Have a look at the examples given below to have a clear idea of how it works.

Modal Auxiliary Verb

Examples

Can

Can you do it?

Could

I could find some time to finish it by tomorrow.

May

She may have liked your style.

Might

Suresh might be able to help you with it.

Will

Anu will solve the puzzle.

Would

Would you like to have some pizza?

Should

The children should keep themselves active.

Must

You must try the Dragon Chicken from China Valley.

Ought to

You ought to abide by the rules set by the organisation you are a part of.

Shall

I shall be obliged to you for all your help.

Test Your Knowledge on Auxiliary Verbs and Their Usage

Try out the following practice exercise to find out how far you have understood the usage of auxiliary verbs in sentences.

Fill in the blanks with the appropriate auxiliary verb:

1. Leena ______ eating an apple.

2. _____ you finish the work I _____ given you yesterday?

3. _________ you please pass the logbook?

4. You _________ follow the rules.

5. Your phone ___________ damaged.

6. I am sorry, I ________ make it to your wedding.

7. Derrick __________ submitted all the documents for verification last week.

8. The Queen’s jewellery ______ stolen from the museum.

9. Peter ______ asked to host the ceremony by his uncle.

10. Sam and Joe ______ attending the event.

Ready to find out if you got it all right? Check your answers.

1. Leena is/was eating an apple.

2. Did you finish the work I had given you yesterday?

3. Could/Can you please pass the logbook?

4. You should/ought to follow the rules.

5. Your phone should be damaged.

6. I am sorry, I cannot make it to your wedding.

7. Derrick had submitted all the documents for verification last week.

8. The Queen’s jewellery was/had been stolen from the museum.

9. Peter was asked to host the ceremony by his uncle.

10. Sam and Joe will be attending the event.

Frequently Asked Questions on Auxiliary Verbs in English

What is an auxiliary verb?

An auxiliary verb is a verb that is used as a helping verb along with the main verb in a sentence to make it more meaningful. It is used to alter the tense, mood or voice of the sentence.

What is the definition of an auxiliary verb?

An auxiliary verb is “a verb such as be, do, and have used with main verbs to show tense, etc. and to form questions, and negatives”, according to the Oxford Learners’ Dictionary.
The Macmillan Dictionary defines auxiliary verbs as “the verbs ‘be’, ‘do’, and ‘have’ in English, when they are used with another verb to form tenses, questions, question tags, and the passive. For example, in the sentences ‘I am listening’, ‘Are you working?’, ‘You don’t like her, do you?’ and ‘The bill has been paid’, ‘am’, ‘are’, ‘do’, and ‘has been’ are all auxiliaries.”
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an auxiliary verb is “a verb that is used with another verb to form tenses, negatives, and questions. In English, the auxiliary verbs are ‘be’, ‘have’, and ‘do’.”

Give some examples of auxiliary verbs.

Am, is, are, was, were, will, have, has, had, may, might, can, could, shall, should, must, ought to, would, etc., are some examples of auxiliary verbs.

How can I use auxiliary verbs to express the tense in a sentence?

Given below are some points you have to keep in mind when using auxiliary verbs to express the tense in a sentence.

  • When using the forms of ‘to be’, make sure you use the gerund (verb+ing) form of the main verb as they are used to indicate continuous action.
  • When using forms of ‘have’, see to it that you use the past participle forms of the main verbs along with the different forms of ‘have’. There is one other thing that you should keep in mind. When the auxiliary verbs ‘have’ and ‘been’ are used together to represent the perfect continuous tense, see to it that you use the gerund (verb+ing) form of the main verb in that particular sentence.
  • When using the auxiliary verb ‘will’ to denote the simple future tense, see to it that you use the root verb as such along with ‘will’ and a gerund (verb+ing) along with ‘will be’ to indicate the future continuous tense. Make sure you employ the past participle form of the main verb when it is used to indicate the future perfect tense along with the auxiliary verbs, ‘will’ and ‘have’.

Give some examples of how auxiliary verbs are used to express the voice of the verb in a sentence.

Here are some examples of how auxiliary verbs are used to express the voice of the verb in a sentence.

  • Any sort of amendments to the bill was refused by the judge.
  • The bus will be boarded by me at 8:30 p.m. tonight.
  • The solution to the problem will have been delivered by the authorities, this time tomorrow.
  • Chocolates are liked by most children.
  • He has been checked by the doctor.

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