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what are 'auxiliary verbs'?

Average: 3.5 (340 votes)

'There are lots of things to buy.'

Auxiliary verbs are also known as 'helping verbs'.

The three most common auxiliary verbs are:

be, do and have

I am leaving = Leaving is the main verb. Am is the auxiliary.

She has arrived = Arrived is the main verb. Has is the auxiliary.

Do you smoke? = Smoke is the main verb. Do is the auxiliary.

Do / does / did

Do is common for forming questions and making negatives.

Did is used for do and does in the past tense. Do and does is never used for the past.

In statements

I do my homework.

You do the laundry.

We do the washing up.

They do yoga.

He/she does the cleaning.

In questions

Do I know you?

Do you live here?

Do we have time?

Do they come from Vietnam?

Does he/she drive to work?

In negative sentences

I do not. (I don't)

You do not. (you don't)

We do not. (we don't)

They do not. (they don't)

He/she does not. (he/she doesn't)

Be = am / is / are

Be can be used as an auxiliary verb or the main verb in a sentence.

Is tells us that an action is happening now or is going to happen in the future.

Be is also used to make passives.

Are is used for they and we.

Was is used for the past tense of am and is.

Were is used for the past tense of you, we and they.

In statements

I am 21.

You are Indian.

We are waiting.

They are excited

He/she is cool.

In questions

Am I in the right place?

Are you my new boss?

Are we nearly there?

Are they the best players on the team?

Is he/she old enough to go to bars?

In negative sentences

I am not. (I aren't)

You are not. (you aren't)

We are not. (we aren't)

They are not. (they aren't)

He/she is not. (he/she isn't)

Have = has / had

Have is used to make the present perfect tense (it is always followed by the past participle).

Has is used for the third person singular.

Had is used for past tenses especially the past perfect tense. It describes an action that began in the past and continues into the present or that occurred in the recent past.

In statements

I have a dog.

You have something on your shirt.

We have seen it before.

They have called me three times.

He/she has lived in America.

In negative sentences

I have not. (I haven't/ I've not)

You have not. (you haven't/you've not)

We have not. (we haven't/we've not)

They have not. (they haven't/they've not)

He/she has not (he/she hasn't)


Other common auxiliary verbs are:

can, could, may, might, must, ought, should, and would.

These are also known as modal verbs. We use them to show obligation, possibility and necessity.

For example:

Jack is late. He might be sleeping. (possibility)

I should clean my room today. (obligation)

I must wear a tie to school. (necessity)

Answering questions

Auxiliary verbs are useful in giving short answers to questions.

Basically, your answer can end with the auxiliary verb.

The following examples are natural and completely acceptable ways to answer questions:

Do you like reading?
Yes, I do (like reading)

Can you speak English?
Yes, I can (speak English)

Do you have a sister?
No, I don't (have a sister)

'have and has' - more practice

  • I'm not coming tomorrow,___ I?

  • ___ you seen the Mona Lisa?

  • ___ your family celebrate Easter?

  • They ___ opened yet.

  • ___ everyone ready?

  • The Russian tourists ___ in the museum.

  • Which floor ___ they live on?

  • I'm using your pen, ___ I?

  • She ___ already finished the project before he asked for it.

  • He ___ brought it yet


There are several bugs in your exercises.

Please check them again.Thanks!

No more bugs!

Thanks for pointing out the bugs on this page. It is now fixed....I hope!


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Why is it correct to say
Do your family celebrate Eastern?

I would have liked to say "Does your familiy ......." ...because "your family" is the same as he/she/it

To be honet, both forms are

To be honet, both forms are acceptable. We use 'do you family' because in the response we would use 'yes, they do.' Having said that, you will find lot's of examples of using 'does' too.

Thank you for the

Thank you for the explanation, because I made the mistake. but of course if we think about answer - the rihgt thing is - "yes, we do"... or "yes, they do"... So comlicated for me...Sad

right you are!


I`m confused with the

I`m confused with the sentence I`m using your pen,....I ? I think there`s no correct answer. I would add: am I... Or? THANKS!


When using a negative tag we say I'm using your pen, aren't I?

Using a positive tag we say  I'm not using your pen, am I?

Take a look at our questions tags lesson


Thank you! It`s clear now!

Thank you for this lesson!

Thank you for this lesson! I've never encountered such example of question's tag.

share your experience in learning english

i don't know to to learn English effectively. please help me, you can suggest book for me to reference

learn english,champion

The best way to learn English is through conversation. If this is not possible you should try and use as many different types of resources as possible. Books are good, for example, 'English Grammar in Use' is great, but dry. You need to read stories too. Then you must practise your listening by watching TV or listening to the radio. There are many things you can do. Good luck


Do your family celebrate Easter? <-- Could anyone tell me why used Do?

This is the best exercise .

Realy you have a good way for teaching.
good formation and example.

Now It is clear
I hope your all the best.

I love this Language. Anas Legend

I have doubt!

I have doubt about the correct answer for this:

I'm using your pen, ___ I?

I believe 'am I not?' is more appropriate.

Any comments?

am I not

True. That would be OK, but not natural and a little 'overblown'.


Were is used for the past tense of (they, )you, we and they.

do/does family

"Do/does family celebrate Easter"
They both must be true. Aren't I right ?

Which floor...

In this case, if you want to use "are" we say... Which floor are they living on? are is part of the present progressive tense. If you ask a question without using a form of the verb to be, then you need to use an auxiliary verb. That is "do" in this case...


Thanks alot
Why did we used "do" not "are" to answer this question: which floor do they live on? as i think we can say which floor are they live on?
thanks again

I'm using your pen, ___ I?

I'm using your pen, ___ I?
sir can u explain this how it will be aren't.

re: aren't

In questions 'am not' becomes 'aren't'.

thank you for this lesson

thank you for this lesson

Do your family celebrate Easter?

It is not correct to say "do your family celebrate Easter?" You must say "does your family celebrate Easter? The correct response should be: "Yes, it does" or "Yes, my family celebrates Easter." Conversationally, you can say yes they do. However, "they" refers to the members of your family.

Do as auxiliary verb

Some of my students have been to this site. In your explanation you cite *do* as an auxiliary verb in *You do the laundry* and other similar examples. In fact in all of the examples you give for statements *do* is the lexical verb - NOT THE AUXILIARY! Could you change this please? Smile

"Do your family..." is incorrect.

"Does" is the correct answer because "family" falls in the he/she/it category. It is true that many people answer with "Yes, they do", but this is not actually the correct answer. The correct reply would be "Yes, my family does." However, many people answer as if the question used a plural noun instead of a collective noun. "Do your family celebrate Easter?" would correctly be answered by "Yes my family do." Both that question and answer are grammatically incorrect. So, if you want to answer with "Yes they do." The question must be "Do your family members celebrate Easter?"