Saturday, 19 September 2015


R.Vasanthakumar, M.A.,B.Ed.,

Department Of English, Government High School, Edachithur

Auxiliary Verbs "Be," "Do," "Have"

An auxiliary verb helps the main (full) verb and is also called a "helping verb." With auxiliary verbs, you can write sentences in different tenses, moods, or voices. Auxiliary verbs are: be, do, have, will, shall, would, should, can, could, may, might, must, ought, etc.
  • I think I should study harder to master English.
  • am having a cup of coffee.
  • You have been practicing hard.
  • It was written by a petitioner.
  • You may choose what you like.
The verb forms of be, do, and have can be used either as a main (full) verb or an auxiliary verb. The following examples show these verbs used as auxiliary verbs.

1. "Be" as an auxiliary verb

a.Used in progressive sentences:
  • I am taking a bath.
  • She is preparing dinner for us.
  • They have been studying all night.
b.Used in passive sentences:
  • I was given a free meal.
  • He was seen by fans at the airport.
  • This song has been sung by all nations.
2."Do" as an auxiliary verb

a. Used in negative sentences:
  • I do not know the truth.
  • She doesn’t agree with me.
  • They didn’t arrive here yet.
b.Used in questions:
  • Do you want to have another one?
  • Did he finish his homework?
  • Do we need to keep going straight?
3."Have" as an auxiliary verb

a. Used in perfect sentences:
  • I have been following you for a mile.
  • We have done a lot so far.
  • She had been queen of the town.

[Quiz 19.1]

Identify all auxiliary verbs in the following paragraph.

I have just heard that you didn’t attend the meeting yesterday. Did you have a conflict with that time? I must ask that you explain the reason.

[Quiz 19.2]

Which of the following sentences does not show any auxiliary verbs?

1)I didn’t have any reason to go there.
2)Have we practiced this song enough?
3)Three seats have been reserved for us.
4)I am a professor in the economics department.


have just heard that you didn’t attend the meeting yesterday. Did you have a conflict with that time? I must ask that you explain the reason.

Sentence 4 (the verb am is used as the main verb)

Auxiliary Verbs "Will/Would" and "Shall/Should"

The verbs will, would, shall, should, can, could, may, might, and must cannot be the main (full) verbs alone. They are used as auxiliary verbs only and always need a main verb to follow.


Used to express desire, preference, choice, or consent:
  • I will take this duty.
  • Will you stop talking like that?
Used to express the future:
  • It will rain tomorrow.
  • The news will spread soon.
Used to express capacity or capability:
  • This bucket will hold two gallons of water.
  • This airplane will take 200 passengers.
Used to express determination, insistence, or persistence:
  • I will do it as you say.

Would (past form of will)

Often used in auxiliary functions with rather to express preference:
  • I would rather go shopping today.
  • We’d rather say something than stay quiet.
Used to express a wish or desire:
  • I would like to have one more pencil.
Used to express contingency or possibility:
  • If I were you, I would be so happy.
Used to express routine or habitual things:
  • Normally, we would work until 6 p.m.


Mainly used in American English to ask questions politely (it has more usages in British English). For the future tense, will is more frequently used in American English than shall.
  • Shall we dance?
  • Shall I go now?
  • Let’s drink, shall we?
Often used in formal settings to deliver obligation or requirement:
  • You shall abide by the law.
  • There shall be no trespassing on this property.
  • Students shall not enter this room.

Should (past form of shall)

Often used in auxiliary functions to express an opinion, suggestion, preference, or idea:
  • You should rest at home today.
  • I should take a bus this time.
  • He should be more thoughtful in the decision-making process.
Used to express that you wish something had happened but it didn’t or couldn’t (should + have + past participle):
  • You should have seen it. It was really beautiful.
  • I should have completed it earlier to meet the deadline.
  • We should have visited the place on the way.
Used to ask for someone’s opinion:
  • What should we do now?
  • Should we continue our meeting?
  • Should we go this way?
  • Where should we go this summer?
Used to say something expected or correct:
  • There should be an old city hall building here.
  • Everybody should arrive by 6 p.m.
  • We should be there this evening.

[Quiz 20.1]

Fill in the blanks using an appropriate auxiliary verb.

1)I                     leave now. It is too late.
2)You                     have seen him. His dance was amazing.
3)                    we have lunch together?
4)I                     like a cup of tea, please.
5)                    we read the email?


1) should
2) should
3) Shall
4) would
5) Should

Auxiliary Verbs "Can/Could" and "May/Might/Must"


Used to express ability (to be able to do something):
  • I can make jewelry.
  • He can’t speak French.
  • Can you open this jar?
Used to ask for permission:
  • Can I use your bathroom?
  • Can I leave now?
  • Can I raise the volume?
Used to make requests or suggestions:
  • Can I have more napkins?
  • Can I have the bill?
  • You can take this spot if you like.
  • You can do whatever you want.

Could (past form of can)

Describes an ability that someone had in the past:
  • I could swim when I was young.
  • You could see the boat sinking.
  • They could tell he was nervous.
Often used in auxiliary functions to express permission politely:
  • Could I take this jacket with me?
  • You could borrow my umbrella.
  • Could you please let me pass you?
  • Could I get you more water?
Used to express possibility:
  • All of them could ride in the van.
  • You could always stay at our house.
  • Could it be true?
  • This plan could really work out.


Used to ask for formal permission:
  • May I come in?
  • May I say something now?
  • May I ask one question?
Used to suggest something that is possible:
  • She may agree with this plan.
  • They may not be happy about what happened.
  • It may shower tonight.

Might (past form of may)

Used to suggest a smaller possibility than may does (actually, might is more common than may in American English):
  • He might have finished it.
  • I might go see a doctor.
  • I might not come this time.
  • It might be right.
  • You might have lost it.
  • The store might have been closed today.


Used to express something formally required or necessary:
  • I must complete the project by this week.
  • The government must provide health care for everybody.
  • Everyone must save the natural resources of the earth.
  • The building must have a fire alarm.
  • You must answer my question right now.
Used to show that something is very likely:
  • He must be a genius.
  • You must be joking!
  • There must be an accident.
  • She must be very tired.

[Quiz 21.1]

Choose the right word for each blank.

1)She                      (can, could, may, might, must) have practiced a lot. Her performance was amazing.
2)I can’t find my watch anywhere. I                      (can, could, may, might, must) have lost it.
3)Professor,                      (can, could, may, might, must) I ask a question?
4)                     (can, could, may, might, must) you please lower your voice?
5)You                      (can, could, may, might, must) be kidding! How is that possible?
6)I                      (can, could, may, might, must) speak both English and Chinese fluently.


1) must
2) might
3) may
4) could
5) must
6) can