English grammar

Module 3, Verbs, Lesson 2:

Helping Verbs

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English grammar
Definition:
The second category of verbs is helping verbs. Also called auxiliary verbs, helping verbs help the main verb show tense or possibility.
Helping verbs + main verbs = verb phrases. The main verb is always the last verb in the phrase.

The most common helping verbs are

  • to be: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been

    These are used in progressive tenses and passive voice verbs.

    I am writing this sentence.
    This sentence was written.
  • to have: have, has, had

    These are used in perfect tenses.

    I have read many, many books.
  • to do: do, does, did

    These are emphatic verbs. They emphasize the main verb.

    I do know your uncle.
  • conditionals (also called modal auxiliaries): could, should, would, can, shall, will, may, might, must

    These express possibility, obligation, permission, ability, necessity, and intention.

    I could play basketball. (It is a possibility that I will be able to.)
    I should play basketball. (I have an obligation to do it.)
    I would play basketball. (It is a possibility under certain conditions.)
    I can play basketball. (I am able to do it.)
    I shall play basketball. (used more in British English for first person instead of will [I shall, you will].)
    I will play basketall. (It is my intention in the future.)
    I may play basketball. (I have permission to do it, or it is a possibility.)
    I might play basketball. (It is a possibility.)
    I must play basketball. (It is a necessity.)

Challenge 1: Watch out for questions! The subject of the question is often between the helping verb and the main verb. If you keep all the words and rearrange the sentence to a declarative sentence, it may be easier to find the verb phrase.

Are you coming to my party?
You are coming to my party.

Challenge 2: Sometimes the verb phrase can be interrupted by an adverb. Be careful not to include the adverb in the verb phrase. Only verbs on the "Approved List of Helping Verbs" can be helping verbs.

Approved List of Helping Verbs
to be to have to do Conditionals
am
are
is
was
were
be
being
been
have
has
had
do
does
did
could
should
would
can
shall
will
may
might
must
Hint:
Remember don't, doesn't, and didn't are contractions for do not, does not, and did not. The not is not a helping verb.

Practice What You've Learned

English grammar

Part 1

Directions:
Click on all the words in the verb phrase in each sentence.
1.
Tomorrow we will be playing soccer.
2.
You should have cleaned your room.
3.
Sam did do the dishes.
4.
Should you be eating that much candy?
5.
Early scientists must have wondered about the strange animals at the bottom of the ocean.
6.
A car must have driven here on the beach.
7.
St. Augustine, Florida would have been a hot place to live in the 1600s.
8.
Have you been doing your homework?
9.
That satellite rocket should have launched by now.
10.
My four canaries could have flown away.

Part 2

Directions:
Click on all the helping verbs only in each sentence.
11.
You should have been practicing your free throws before the last game.
12.
We might be seeing the pyramids on our trip to Egypt.
13.
That picture may have been cut out of a medieval manuscript.
14.
That crash must have been caused by texting while driving.
15.
We will not be shopping at the mall on Black Friday.
16.
Can you help me find my lost keys?
17.
We would have been here on time if Sam hadn't broken his ankle.
18.
My aunt and uncle will soon be visiting us for the summer.
19.
In 2013 Hannukah and Thanksgiving were celebrated on the same day.
20.
I am sure you did do your homework, but where is it?
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