Auxiliary Verbs / Helping Verbs

An Auxiliary verb, also called a helping verb, has no meaning on its own but helps the main verb in functional and grammatical way.

Similar Subjects:

Action Verbs / Linking Verbs
Modal Verbs

Subject Exercises:
Auxiliary vs Main Verb Exercise
Auxiliary Verbs Exercise 2
Modals Exercises
Most common auxiliary verbs are: To be, have, do, will.


In Progressive (Continuous) tenses:

We are watching TV in our room right now. (present progressive)
Sally was shopping when I saw her. (past progressive)
They have been running for an hour. (present perfect progressive)
We had been sleeping for an hour when the fire alarm rang. (past perfect progressive)
Note: we always use the "-ing" form of the main verb following the auxiliary verb.

In Passive Voice


The window is broken.
The bridge was built.
The new program has been declared.
It should be renovated.
Your assignment must be finished by tomorrow.


In Compound Tenses:

They have cleared all the evidence.
Nobody has seen anything.
She has been singing.
We had arranged everything.
Nothing has been done about the incident.


In Negatives

I don’t like horror films.
John didn’t participate our club.

In Questions

Does your brother know Spanish?
Did you attend the course yesterday?

In emphasis

I do want to marry you.

Note: these three auxiliary verbs (be, do and have) can also be used as full verbs, so pay attention to the words coming after them to distinguish between the two uses.

I am so exhausted today.

"To be" is the main verb of the sentence here as it isn't followed by a full verb.

I have a car and it is so expensive.

Both the verb “have” (indicates possession) and “to be” are full verbs in this sentence.

Can you do me a favor please?
I am doing my best to pass my class.

The verb "do" is the main verb in this sentence; however, "to be" is an auxiliary verb as it is followed by the main verb (doing).


Can only be used as an auxiliary verb:

I will help you with the chores.
They won’t come today.

Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Most common ones are:

Can / could / may / might / shall / should / must / ought to / had better


I cannot talk to you right now.
You had better finish your homework before your father arrives.
We must obey the traffic rules.
I think you should take an aspirin.
He might be in his office.
Could you open the door for me, please?

See Auxiliary Verbs Exercise