Auxiliary verbs

Auxiliary verbs are also known as helping verbs. They assist the main verb in a sentence by extending or elaborating on the meaning of that verb. They help to make a sentence’s intended meaning completely clear. In the English language, there are only about 23 auxiliary verbs.

  • I am leaving now (“leaving” is the main verb; “am” is the auxiliary verb. Without “am”, the sentence wouldn’t make grammatical sense)
  • Do you drink wine? (“drink is the main verb; “do” is the auxiliary verb)
  • The main auxiliary verbs in English are be, do and have.

Examples of auxiliary verbs


The verb “do” is used for statement, forming questions and making negatives.

We do yoga every Thursday.

Do you like cheese?

I do not like cheese.

Be = Am/Is/Are

The verb “be” can be used as either a main or auxiliary verb in a sentence. It is used, in its various forms, in statements, questions and in negative sentences.

I am 16.

You are English.

Am I in the right room?

Are they the best apples you could find?

We are not happy.

He is not going to the match.

Have = Has/Had

The verb “have” is used for statements and questions.

You have a stain on your top.

They have called me three times.

I have not received a call today.

Have you seen the dog?

Other common auxiliary verbs, also known as modal verbs, are: can, could, may, might, must, ought, should and would.

Jenny is early. She may have to wait outside (possibility)

I should go to the shops today (obligation)

He must wear smart clothes in the restaurant (necessity)

Auxiliary verbs are useful for giving short answers to questions.

Do you like cheese?

Yes, I do (like cheese)

Can you speak French?

No, I can’t (speak French)