Basic English Grammar: What is an auxiliary verb?

Categories English By JadePosted on Format Film
Basic English Grammar: What is an auxiliary verb?

Important basic English grammar lesson. When you’re teaching yourself English, there are aspects of basic grammar that you don’t know about or understand. This makes it sometimes difficult to understand your English lessons. That’s why today I’m telling you all about „auxiliary verbs” — also known as „helper verbs”. They are extra verbs in the sentence that don’t usually contribute to the main meaning of the sentence. They usually just show you what verb tense the sentence is. I explain everything you need to know about them, and how to find them in a sentence. Let’s get started! Test yourself with the quiz at


Hi. I’m Jade. What we’re talking about today is auxiliary verbs. You don’t have to be scared of that word, „auxiliary”, because it’s a grammar word. Basically, what they are is they’re helper verbs. They are not the most important verb in the sentence, but they’re important so we know what tense it is. So the reason I made this lesson today is I found that people who taught English to themselves get to a point where some confusion comes in because if you’re watching videos about learning English and things like that, sometimes, you’re going to hear grammar words that you’re not sure about. And then, some confusion can happen. So if the teacher says, „Find the verb in the sentence”, sometimes, what happens is you just find the verb you know, but you don’t realize that it’s not the important verb there. So the whole idea of this lesson is to just teach you a bit of grammar so that you don’t get confused in the future when you’re watching videos and things like that.

So yeah. They’re helper verbs. They’re not the most important verb in the sentence. There can be more than one of them in a sentence and even still not being the main verb. It’s important because it will help you to recognize the tense, the different tenses of English. Maybe you don’t use all the tenses actively, but it’s still good to be able to recognize them. And also, the most important thing about auxiliary verbs is that it’s not helpful for you to directly translate these words because you’ll just get a really confusing, confusing meaning. And sometimes, that’s a mistake people make. So what we’re going to do is go through the different auxiliary verbs in English and look at the different ways that we use them.

So the first one you might not think of as being a helping verb, but it’s a good example of what I mean when you see the verb, and then you try to translate it, and it doesn’t really give you a good meaning; it doesn’t really explain what it means well. The best example of that is „be” in the present and past simple. „She is my boss.” What does „be” mean? What does it — what does „be” mean? I don’t know. I was personally confused about that even though I didn’t need to learn English. And what it’s doing is being a linking verb. In grammar terms, all it’s doing is joining subject to object. It doesn’t carry its own meaning, you could say. So in that sense, the verb isn’t that important here. It’s the subject and the object that are important.

Anyway. The next examples, they start to get a little more complicated, but not too bad. Another example of „be”, but this time in the continuous sentence — in the continuous tenses. „He is sleeping.” Let’s have a think. What tense is that one? That one is the present continuous. And this one, „They have been talking.” This one is the present perfect continuous. And what I mean by „auxiliary verb” in these is that they’re not the most important verb in those examples. The most important verb is „sleeping” here. And the most important verb is „talking” here. In this example, the present perfect continuous actually has two auxiliaries because you can have more than one auxiliary verb in a sentence.

Next example. „Have” in the perfect tenses. We’ve got two examples here. We’ve got, „I’ve got a car” and, „They had gone home.” What tenses are we talking about here? „I’ve got a car.” That one is the present perfect. And what about this one? What’s this one? This one is the past perfect. Where’s the most important verb? The most important verb is „get” here. We’re using it for possession. It means „to own something, to possess something” here. In the second example, the most important verb is „go”. This is a past participle. It becomes „gone”.

Let’s move on to „do” — our first example of „do”. When we’re making a negative sentence in the present simple or the past simple, in the negative form, we use „do”. Let’s look at the examples. „I do not like Peter.” I’m sorry, Peter. „Do” shows us that we’re making a negative sentence. What’s the most important verb? The most important verb is „like”. What about next example? „We didn’t go.” Again — naughty me — no full stop. The most important verb is „go”. There’s our negative, this time in a contracted form.