What are Helping Verbs? Definition, Meaning, Sentences, Examples, List


In English Grammar, verbs undoubtedly play the most important role. But among the many different types of verbs, helping verbs are perhaps the most significant ones. These are the verbs that help denote the tense of a particular sentence. In this post, we will be looking at all the aspects of these verbs.

So, let’s get started with the definition of helping verbs.

What are Helping Verbs? Definition

If we are to define these verbs, then we can say that helping verbs are the ones that help extend the meaning and are presented by the main verb in a sentence. These verbs will always give us additional details about the work a subject is acting out and also finish the structure of the sentence. They also denote the time and tense in a sentence. In the English language, there are two types of helping verbs present; Auxiliary verbs and Modal verbs.

what helping verbs definition meaning sentences examples list
What helping verbs definition meaning sentences examples list

Let’s look at them in a detailed way now.

First Type of Helping Verb: Auxiliary Verbs

Among the helping verbs, if a verb is used to add meaning to the clause, then they can be called auxiliary verbs. Since the usage is very common, many grammarians often use these two terms almost interchangeably. As mentioned earlier, you can use these verbs to denote the tense or add some emphasis. Let’s look at its forms:

Auxiliary Verb Forms

There are three very common auxiliary verbs: “to be,” “to have,” and “to do.” These verbs also have multiple forms:

  • to be – having all the forms of present and past such as “am, is, are, was, were, be, been”
  • to have – talking all the forms of Have verb such as “have, has, had”
  • to do – do, does, did

Auxiliary Verb Example Sentences

Let’s look at a few sentences where these verbs are used as auxiliary verbs for your better understanding.

  • He is having another ice cream.
  • She is making Biriyani for all her friends.
  • They are shifting to New York.
  • She was awarded the third prize in the contest.
  • I was happy just to be there.
  • Will he be there?
  • I have been studying all night.
  • They have done that before as well.
  • Have you ever been to Goa before?
  • He asked if I could use his car while he was out of the station.
  • I did find that movie quite hilarious.
  • Mathew often does that to the people he cares about.
  • Whom did you meet on your way back home?

Other Helping Verb Type: Modal Verbs

You need to keep in mind that while every auxiliary verb is a helping verb but not all helping verbs are auxiliary verbs; the rest of them are called Modal verbs. They help in performing other tasks within a sentence. They actually modify the action or meaning of the main verb even further in a sentence. 

List of Modal Verbs:

There are a number of modal verbs in the English language. One thing you must remember is that these verbs never change their form. Some examples of modal verbs are:

  • can
  • could
  • may
  • might
  • will
  • would
  • shall
  • should
  • must
  • ought to

Now, we are going to look at details of some frequently used auxiliary verbs.

Auxiliary Verb: BE

One of the most extraordinary things about the verb ‘be’ is that it can be used both as an auxiliary and a full verb. One can easily distinguish between the two uses just by locating another main verb sitting after the “be” verb in a sentence. But when it comes to using it as an irregular verb, they have different forms as per different tenses.

Progressive Tense Use of Be:

When we use this verb in the sense of a progressive tense, one must use the ‘-ing’ suffixed version of the main verb.

Let’s look at some examples:

  • Present Progressive: It means that the action is ongoing

Example: He is doing his homework today.

  • Past Progressive: This means that the action was ongoing in the past.          

Example: He was babysitting his sister yesterday.

  • Present Perfect Progressive: This means that the action began in the past and is still going on.

Example: He has been studying since morning.

  • Past Perfect Progressive: This means that the action that started in the past and finished at another time in the past.

Example: He had been studying last night.

Use of ‘Be‘ in passive voice:

  • Simple Present: The snake is killed. 
  • Simple Past: The snake was killed.
  • Present Perfect: The snake has been killed.
  • Past Perfect: The snake had been killed.
  • Future: The snake will be killed.

Auxiliary Verb: HAVE

Much like the “Be” verb, the ‘have’ verb can also be used as a full verb or a helping verb. You can differentiate the same way by locating the main verb coming after the helping verb in a sentence. Apart from that, the ‘have’ verb is also often used to make compound tenses in active and passive voices. Moreover, you can form negative sentences and questions as well. Much like any other irregular verb, this one also changes form according to tense.

How To Use ‘Have’ in Compound Tenses?

If you are using this verb in simple tense for active voice, then make sure to use the ‘-ed’ suffixed form of the main verb. But for all the progressive tenses, you need to use the ‘-ing’ suffixed form of the main verb. 

Use of ‘Have’

  • Present Perfect: This means that the action happened at an unspecified time before now    

Example: He has made some noodles.

  • Past Perfect Action: This means the action happened before another action in the past         

Example: He had made some noodles.

  • Present Perfect Progressive: This means the action began in the past and is still going on. 

Example: He has been making some noodles. 

  • Past perfect Progressive: This indicates that the action started in the past and finished at another time in the past.       

Example: He had been making some noodles.

  • Present Perfect (Passive Voice)  It refers to an action that happened at an unspecified time before now.    

Example: Some noodles have been made.

  • Past Perfect (Passive Voice)  It refers to the action that happened before another action in the past. 

Example: Some noodles had been made.

Negative Sentences and Questions

If you are framing negative sentences and questions with the ‘have’ verb using as a helping verb, then make sure to put ‘have’ before the other verb. 

He does not have the keys.

Here, ‘have’ becomes the main verb while ‘does not’ becomes the auxiliary verb.

 He has lost the keys.

Here, ‘have’ is the helping verb for the main verb ‘lost’.

Similar the interrogatives will be:

  • Does he have what it takes to do the job?
  • Does he like her?

Auxiliary Verb: WILL

The verb ‘will’ can only be used as an auxiliary verb and never as a main verb. It can be used to denote future tenses and negative sentences. Plus, it stays unchanged throughout every tense and person.

Use of ‘Will’

  • Future I: It refers to an action promised/assumed in the future.   

Example: He will not make some noodles.

Future II: It refers to an action that will be finished in the future.          

  • Example: He will have made some noodles.

Negative Sentences:

Even when you are making negative sentences, this verb will not change its form. But it can make the often used contraction ‘won’t’. The use of this contraction is correct depending upon the language and flow of your sentence.

He will not do his homework = He won’t do his homework. 

Since the verb, ‘will’ is nothing but an auxiliary verb, both the sentences are grammatically correct.

Auxiliary Verb: DO

If the sentence you are using is a positive sentence, only then the helping verb ‘do’ can be used as a full verb. But if the sentence is a negative sentence, then you will have to treat it as an auxiliary verb. It is also used to make questions for most verbs apart from other auxiliary verbs and the modal verbs. Since this is an irregular verb, it changes its form according to the tense.

Use of ‘Do’

  • Simple Present: It refers to an action taking place now–once or several times or never.  

Example: He never does his homework.

  • Simple Past Action: It refers to an action that happened in the past – once/ many times/ never.         

Example: He did not do his homework.

Questions:

If you are making questions with “do”, then you can ask the question in simple tense. 

  • Simple Present: It refers to an action taking place now – once or several times or never. 

Example: Does he ever do his homework?

  • Simple Past Action: It refers to an action that happened in the past – once/ many times/ never.         

Example: Did he do his homework?

Places Where ‘Do’ is Not Used:

You cannot use the verb “do” in certain situations as the auxiliary verb. Let’s look at these instances to understand this well. 

  • If the main verb is ‘Be’.

Example: There were no noodles left. Is there any noodles?

  • If there is another Helping Verb.

Example: There won’t be any noodles. Will you make some noodles?

  • If there is a Modal Verb.

Example: She can make some noodles. Can she make some noodles?

Progressive and Perfect Aspects

You must keep in mind that these helping verbs play a huge role in the progressive and perfect aspects of time. But what is that exactly? 

The Progressive Aspect:

If the main verb in a sentence ends in -ing, then you can employ the progressive tense. It can also bring the sense that an action is occurring and the forms of the helping verb will use the verb “be” (am, is, are, was, and were). This is the progressive tense.

  • He is selling the guesthouse to my neighbor.
  • They are leaving their decade-old business.
  • It is going to snow every day.
  • They were planning their new tour.

Conclusion

So, this is all you need to know about the helping verbs are. It is imperative to remember that you cannot write a verb phrase in a sentence with more than three helping verbs. If you can use them properly, these verbs can easily perform some of the most intricate work in English verb phrases. 

The more advanced level you will have in this language, the more easily you can approach the complex aspects, like progressive and perfect and other intricate sentence structures. Once you have a solid foundation of simple verbs, you can delve deeper into the concept of helping verbs. I believe this post will answer all your queries regarding the helping verbs.

Should you have any further questions, please feel free to mention them in the comments section. We will answer them as quickly as we can so that you learn to use helping verbs in English writings.

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