Auxiliary Verbs (Helping Verbs)

Auxiliary verbs or helping verbs are used with the main verb to help us make different tenses.

The primary auxiliary verbs are 'be', 'do', and 'have'.

Be as an auxiliary verb

We use 'be' as an auxiliary verb to help us make continuous tenses and to use the passive voice.

Continuous tenses

To make continuous tenses, we use be + present participle.

A present participle is the -ing form of the verb.

She is meeting her sister for dinner.

'Is' is the auxiliary verb. 'Meeting' is the present participle. It is also the main verb in the sentence. This is an example of the present continuous tense.

She was meeting her sister for dinner.

'Was' is the auxiliary verb. 'Meeting' is the present participle (main verb). This is an example of the past continuous tense.

Notice how we change the tense by changing the auxiliary verb 'be'. We use the present form of 'be' to make the present continuous tense. We use the past form of 'be' to make the past continuous tense.

Learn more about using be.

Passive voice

To make the passive voice, we use be + past participle.

The money was taken.

'Was' is the auxiliary verb. 'Taken' is the past participle (main verb).

A past participle is one of the past forms of the verb.

Have as an auxiliary verb

We use 'have' as an auxiliary verb to help us make perfect tenses.

Perfect tenses

To make perfect tenses, we use have + past participle.

I have eaten dinner

'Have' is the auxiliary verb. 'Eaten' is the past participle (main verb). This is an example of the present perfect tense.

I had eaten dinner when she arrived.

'Had' is the auxiliary verb. 'Eaten' is the past participle (main verb). This is an example of the past perfect tense.

To change the tense you change the auxiliary verb 'have'. We use the present form of 'have' to make the present perfect tense. We use the past form of 'have' to make the past perfect tense.

Do as an auxiliary verb

We use 'do' as an auxiliary verb to help us make questions and negative sentences.

We don't need an auxiliary verb to make positive sentences.

Negatives

To make a negative sentence, we use do + not + verb.

I do not like cheese.

'Do' is the auxiliary verb. 'Like' is the main verb.

I didn't see the movie

'Did' is the auxiliary verb. 'See' is the main verb.

Didn't is the short form of did not.

Questions

To make a question, we use do + subject + verb.

Do you like cheese?

'Do' is the auxiliary verb. 'Like' is the main verb.

Did you see the movie?

'Did' is the auxiliary verb. 'See' is the main verb.

Using be, do, and have as main verbs

When we use 'be', 'do', and 'have' as auxiliary verbs they are always helping a main verb in the sentence.

We can also use 'be', 'do', and 'have' on their own as the main verb.

I am a doctor.

I do the washing on Saturday.

I have a cat.