Helping Verbs in English

Adjectives in EnglishWhat 3 helping verbs serve. Learn their forms and functions.

Helping/auxiliary verbs are grammatical verb forms composing analytical aspects. Helping verbs come before notional verbs to clarify their meaning. Together with these main/principal verbs they form verb phrases. According to the rule that each sentence needs at least 1 verb, we need helpers to be in sentences without main verbs. They boost semantic/syntactic information of main verbs, giving them extra meaning. Helpers may change basic forms of main verbs to convert them into the passive voice or some sentence tense. Helping verbs specify relation between activity and time.

Helping verbs are grammatical usages of to be, to do, to have.

He is writing a letter.

He has written a letter.

He will write a letter.

Verb phrases may include 2 helping verbs at most. Sometimes negatives like never, not/n’t separate helping and main verbs.

Keira does not want a new bicycle.

Helping verbs serve to start questions and form mini-answers. Main verbs in mini-answers are only implied, while helpers here may show tense and number.

– She doesn’t like black, does she?

– Yes, she does!

Helpers form compound English tenses analytically – the perfect, continuous, perfect continuous aspects and the passive.

Helping Be Forms

be + participle/infinitive

Be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being form

  • the continuous aspect (Present Continuous, Past Continuous, Future Continuous)

He is watching TV.

  • the passive voice

Small fish are eaten by big fish.

Helping Do Forms

do + V1 (verb stem)

Do, does, did form

  • negatives in the Present Simple and Past Simple

I do not like that man.

  • questions (except with be, will, have got and modal verbs) in the Present Simple and the Past Simple

Do you want some coffee?

  • emphasis

I do want you to pass your exam.

  • repeated verbs

He speaks faster than she does.

Helping Have Forms

have + V3 (past participle)

Have, has, had, having form the perfect aspect (Present Perfect, Past Perfect, Future Perfect).

I have finished my homework.

The perfect continuous aspect is formed by both have and be forms.

sb has been doing sth (Present Perfect Continuous)

sb had been doing sth (Past Perfect Continuous)

sb will have been doing sth (Future Perfect Continuous)

In all other functions helpers serve as main verbs. Some grammarians refer to modal verbs as helping too. However, modals have partly independent lexico-grammatical meaning. So even future will/shall are closer to modals than auxiliaries.