An auxiliary verb is sometimes called a helping verb. They are used in conjunction with the main verb to form various tenses, moods and voices.

There are three auxiliary verbs, they are:​

  • be
  • have
  • do

 

Let’s take a look at the forms of these three auxiliary verbs in the present, past and participle.

helping verb be
helping verb have
helping verb do

They look familiar, don’t they? If fact, they look exactly the same as normal verbs. This is correct as they are normal verbs, well…they can be. However, they can also function as an auxiliary verb.

*NOTE: They are all irregular and very common, so it’s worth learning these tables.

identifying auxiliary verbs

How do I spot an auxiliary? I hear you ask. Well…as you are already aware, a sentence must contain a verb (an action or a condition). The main verb in a sentence and tell us what action or condition is happening. To give the reader or listener a little more information, we accompany the main verb with an auxiliary verb.

The thing about auxiliaries is that they can also function as a main verb. Study the following slides:​

helping verb be - how to spot an auxiliary
main verb vs auxiliary verb - how to spot an auxiliary
main verb vs auxiliary verb - how to spot an auxiliary

Why are auxiliary verbs important?

I know what you’re thinking; three little verbs, what is all the fuss about? They are in fact very important as in some cases, we can’t describe what is happening using only a main verb. We need help, hence the auxiliary (helping verb).

Sometimes, not even an auxiliary gives enough information, phrases that include auxiliaries are required. Especially if the action is ongoing or occurring alongside another event. These phrases can contain between two and four words.

Take a look at the examples of phrases including auxiliaries.

auxiliary verb phrases

Let’s look at the three auxiliaries that exist in English in a little more detail. They are very common so it’s worth revising their past, present and perfect forms.

Modal verbs are also a type of auxiliary verb too. If you don’t know what they are, I suggest you find out.

Click the links below to learn about be, have and do in more detail.

tips for auxiliaries

Have a read of these top tips for auxiliaries.

instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs
instructions for learning auxiliary verbs

There are some additional auxiliary verbs, they are called modal auxiliary verbs. I suggest you take a look and learn their uses.​​​

auxiliary verb quiz

Are you ready to test yourself?

auxiliary verb quiz

answers :   1. are   2. do   3. did   4. have    5. have   6. do/don’t   7. had    8. isn’t    9. has/hasn’t    10.  was/wasn’t