Introduction to grammar

Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary (Helping) Verbs

Auxiliary means functioning in a supporting capacity, and that is exactly what these auxiliary verbs do, which is why they are also known as helping verbs. They are used together with a main verb to give grammatical information and therefore add extra meaning to a sentence; information that is not given by the main verb.

They are used to form the passive voice.

They are used to form the continuous tense.

They are used to form the perfect tense.

Be, Do and Have are auxiliary verbs, they are irregular verbs and can be used as main verbs. The verbs 'to be' and 'to have' are the most commonly used auxiliary verbs and work alongside the main verbs in any statement.

Modal verbs are also auxiliary verbs, but will be treated separately, these are can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, and would, they differ from the others in that they can never function as a main verb.

The Verb To Be

The verb ‘to be’ is the first verb we all learn to use. Why? Because it is used in many ways. We use ‘to be’ to:

  • give personal information, like name, origin, age
  • to describe feelings
  • to describe a person, place or object
  • as an auxiliary verb to make continuous tenses
  • as an auxiliary verb to make passive sentences

So you can see how important it is. Let’s start by looking at how to form the verb ‘to be’.


The verb ‘to be’ is an irregular verb, and even In the present simple it has three different forms – am, are and is:

Forms of To Be
Present Past Perfect
have / had been
am / was being
he / she / it
has / had been
is / was being
you / we / they
have / had been
are / were being

Uses of ‘to be’

giving and asking about personal data: name, age, origin, address, etc. For example:

  • What’s your name? – My name’s Henri.
  • How old is he? – He’s 25.
  • Where are they from? – They’re from Turkey.
  • What’s her job? – She’s an accountant.

Describing your state and how you feel. For example:

  • How are you today? – I’m very well, thanks.
  • We’re hungry. Is there anything to eat?
  • The kids are bored. Why don’t we play a game?
  • You’re tired. You should go to bed.

Describing people, places, and things. For example:

  • Paolo is tall and thin.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Dean are really kind and friendly.
  • What’s the weather like? – It’s cold and rainy…
  • Your car is much faster than mine.

Continuous tenses which describe progressive actions and situations in the past, present and future. For example:

  • You’re studying English.
  • What were they doing when you arrived? (were = the past of ‘are’)
  • I’ll be waiting for you at the entrance to the cinema.

Passive sentences which focus attention on the object of an action, in the present, past and future. For example:

  • Many types of wine are made in Italy.
  • This film was directed by Steven Spielberg.
  • The new version of this phone will be released next year.

The Verb To Have

The verb ‘to have’ is very common in English because it is used as a verb in several situations, and is also an important auxiliary verb. ‘To have’ can mean:

  • possess/own
  • eat or drink
  • take or receive
  • do/experience something
  • make something happen
  • as an auxiliary verb for perfect tenses


Like the verb ‘to be’, the verb ‘to have’ is an irregular verb. Here is the structure:

Forms of To Have
Present Past Continuous
I / you / we / they
he / she / it

Uses of ‘to have’

To describe things you own and possess. For example:

  • You have two sisters, don’t you?
  • They have three factories in Poland.
  • Does he have an apartment or a house?

To substitute ‘eat’ and ‘drink’. For example:

  • have a coffee and a croissant for breakfast.
  • We’ll have the tomato soup as a starter, please.
  • Let’s have a snack before the game.

When you take or receive something

  • He has a new role in the company.
  • We have some bad news.
  • You have a phone call from a supplier.

Do/experience something

  • They have an exam on Monday morning.
  • have a shower before I go to bed.
  • When it’s hot I have a swim in the sea.

Make something happen

  • She has her staff prepare a report once a month.
  • How often do you have your haircut?
  • We are having our house painted at the moment.

Used as an auxiliary verb to make perfect tenses, such as the present perfect and the past perfect

  • I’ve seen this film twice now.
  • They’ve lived here for nine years.
  • You had already left when I arrived.

‘Have got’

When we refer to things we own and possess, a common alternative to ‘have’ is ‘have got’. It’s probably more common in British English than in American English and can be considered more informal. The meaning is the same but the formation of the structure changes for the questions and negatives.

Here are some examples of ‘have got’:

  • Have you got a pen I can borrow?
  • He’s got three sisters and one brother.
  • We haven’t got time to walk to the station.
  • I’ve got a meeting at 3 pm.

The Verb To Do

The verb to do is another common verb in English. It can be used as an auxiliary and a main verb. It is often used in questions.

Forms of To Do
Present Past Perfect
I / you / we / they
have / had done
are / were doing
he / she / it
has / had done
is / was doing


Do Does
Question - ? "Do you always take the bus to work?" "Does she ever do her homework on time?"
Positive Answer - Yes "Yes, I do." "Yes, she does."
Negative Answer - No "No, I don't." "No, she doesn't."


When using the continuous tense do becomes doing and it doesn't change.

Question - ? "What are you doing? Are you doing your homework?"
Positive Answer - Yes "Yes, I am ."
Negative Answer - No "No, I'm not."

When using the simple past tense do becomes did and it doesn't change.

Question - ? "Did you always take the bus to school?"
Positive Answer - Yes "Yes, I did ."
Negative Answer - No "No, I didn't ."

When using the perfect tense do becomes done and it doesn't change.

Question - ? "Have you done your homework?"
Positive Answer - Yes "Yes I have ."
Negative Answer - No "No I haven't."

More functions for the verb “to do

The most common question using "do" that you will probably hear whilst learning English is "What do you do?" The person asking simply wants to know what you do for a living.

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