Notes for SSC CGL: What are Auxiliary Verbs ?

By PARUL RISHI|Updated : August 3rd, 2022

Auxiliary verbs are sometimes called helping verbs because they are needed to form many of the tenses. The most used auxiliary verbs are the verbs to be, to do and to have. For example, the auxiliary to do is needed to ask questions in the present and past simple tenses. To be is needed for the present and past continuous, and all the passive forms. The auxiliary to have is used in the present and past perfect tenses.

Here are some examples of the common auxiliary verbs in action:

  • Do you like German food?
  • Does your mother speak English?
  • Did you come to school yesterday?
  • Why are you talking?
  • You should be listening to me!
  • I was having a bath when you called!
  • A new road is being built behind the school.
  • Have you done your homework?
  • My father has never visited the USA.
  • How long have you been living in Germany?
  • By this time next year, I will have been learning
  • English for 35 years!

Auxiliary Verbs are the verbs be, do, have, and will when they are followed by another verb (the full verb) in order to form a question, a negative sentence, a compound tense or the passive.

The verb 'be'

The verb be can be used as an auxiliary and a full verb. As an auxiliary, we use this verb for compound tenses and the passive voice. Note that be is an irregular verb:

Simple Present: I am, he/she/it is, we/you/they are

Simple Past: I/he/she/it was, we/you/they were

Past Participle: been

You can tell that in the following sentences be is an auxiliary because it is followed by another verb (the full verb). (For progressive forms use the “-ing” form of the full verb; for passive voice, use the past participle of the full verb.)

Progressive Forms
Present Progressive: He is playing football.
Past Progressive: He was playing football.
Present Perfect Progressive: He has been playing football.
Past Perfect Progressive: He had been playing football.

Simple Present/Past: The house is/was built.
Present/Past Perfect: The house has/had been built.
Future I:  The house will be built.

“be” as a full verb

The verb be can also be a full verb. In this case, it’s not followed by another verb. If be is used as a full verb, we do not need an auxiliary in negative sentences or questions.
positive sentence: They are fifteen years old.
negative sentence: They are not fifteen years old.
question: Are they fifteen years old?

The verb “have”

The verb has, too, can be used both as an auxiliary and as a full verb. As an auxiliary, we use this verb to form compound tenses in active and passive voice. (Use the past participle of the full verb.)

Compound Tenses - Active Voice
Present Perfect Simple: He has played football.
Past Perfect Simple: He had played football.
Present Perfect Progressive: He has been playing football.
Past Perfect Progressive: He had been playing football.

Compound Tenses - Passive Voice
Present/Past Perfect: The house has/had been built.
Note that have is an irregular verb, too:
Simple Present: I/we/you/they have, he/she/it has
Simple Past: I/he/she/it/we/you/they had
Past Participle: had

“have” in positive sentences

As a full verb have indicates possession. In British English, however, we usually use have got (have, being the auxiliary, got the full verb).
full verb: I have a car.
auxiliary verb: I have got a car.

“have” in negative sentences and questions
When we use 'have' as a full verb, we must use the auxiliary do in negative sentences and questions. If we use have got, however, we do not need another auxiliary.
have as a full verb:

  • I do not have a car.
  • Do I have a car?

have as an auxiliary verb:

  • I have not got a car.
  • Have I got a car?

The verb “will”

The verb will only be used as an auxiliary. We use it to form future tenses.
The auxiliary verb “will”
Future I: He will not play football.
Future II: He will have played football.

The verb "will" remains the same for all forms (no “s” for 3rd person singular). The short form for negative sentences is won’t.’

eg; I will, he will
I will not = I won’t

The verb “do”

The verb 'do' can be both an auxiliary and a full verb. As an auxiliary, we use 'do' in negative sentences and questions for most verbs (except not for be, will, have got and modal verbs) in Simple Present and Simple Past. (Use the infinitive of the full verb.)

The auxiliary “do” in negative sentences
Simple Present: He does not play football.
Simple Past: He did not play football.

The auxiliary “do” in questions
Simple Present: Does he play football?
Simple Past: Did he play football?

The verb do is irregular:
Simple Present: I/we/you/they do, he/she/it does
Simple Past: I/he/she/it/we/you/they did

The full verb “do”
As a full verb, we use do in certain expressions. If we want to form negative sentences or questions using do as a full verb, we need another do as an auxiliary.

positive sentence: She does her homework every day.
negative sentence: She doesn’t do her homework every day.
question: Does she do her homework every day?

Sentences without the auxiliary “do”
In the following cases, the auxiliary do is not used in negative sentences/questions:
the full verb is “be”

eg; I am not angry. / Are you okay?
the sentence already contains another auxiliary (e.g. have, be, will)

eg; They are not sleeping. / Have you heard that?
the sentence contains a modal verb (can, may, must, need, ought to, shall, should)

eg; We need not wait. / Can you repeat that please?
the question asks for the subject of the sentence

eg; Who sings that song?
Other common auxiliary verbs are: will, should, would, can, must, might, may, could (These verbs are often called modal verbs).

Modal verbs

The modal verbs include can, must, may, might, will, would, should. They are used with other verbs to express ability, obligation, possibility, and so on. Below is a list showing the most useful modals and their most common meanings:

Modal: can

Meaning: to express ability

Example: I can speak a little Russian.

Modal: can

Meaning: to request permission

Example: Can I open the window?

Modal: may

Meaning: to express possibility

Example: I may be home late.

Modal: may

Meaning: to request permission

Example: May I sit down, please?

Modal: must

Meaning: to express obligation

Example: I must go now.

Modal: must

Meaning: to express a strong belief

Example: She must be over 90 years old.

Modal: should

Meaning: to give advice

Example: You should stop smoking.

Modal: would

Meaning: to request or offer

Example:  Would you like a cup of tea?

Modal: would

Meaning: in if-sentences

Example: If I were you, I would say sorry.

Modal verbs are unlike other verbs. They do not change their form (spelling) and they have no infinitive or participle (past/present). The modals must and can need substitute verbs to express obligation or ability in the different tenses. 

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