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Auxiliary Verbs Types & Rules


What are Auxiliaries?

An Auxiliary is a verb which helps the main verb in a sentence. There are two types of auxiliaries:

(A) Primary auxiliaries:  is, am, are, was, were, be, been, has, have, had, do, does, did, done, etc.

(B) Modal Auxiliaries:  Will, would, shall, should, can, could, may, might, must, need, dare, ought to, used to.

 Points to be kept in mind in the use of Auxiliaries:

(A) Primary auxiliaries

 Rule 1: The primary auxiliaries change according to person, number and form of tense:

Wrong: He are writing a letter.

Right: He is writing a letter.

Wrong: They is writing letters.

 Right: They are writing letters.

Rule 2: Primary auxiliaries can be used independently as principal verbs:

 Wrong: They is hard working boys.

Right: They are hard working boys.

Wrong: Dr Gera are a good doctor.

Right: Dr Gera is a good doctor.

Rule 3: The primary auxiliaries can be changed into participles by adding ‘ing’ to them:

Wrong: Be a shy girl, she did not enjoy parties.

Right: Being a shy girl, she did not enjoy parties.

 Wrong: Have done his work, he went away.

 Right: Having done his work, he went away.

Some other Examples:

Rule 4: The modal auxiliaries do not change their form according to the number or person of the subjects.

Wrong: She cans do this work.

Right: She can do this work.

Wrong: She needs a pen.

Right: She needs a pen.

(B) Modal Auxiliaries:

These are helping verbs.

1.‘May ‘implies permission, doubt or possibility:

  • It may rain tonight.
  • May I use your pen?

2. Might is the past form of May but it does not necessarily represent past time. Often it implies more doubt than may

  • If the clouds are salted, the rains might come.

3. Can is used to express ability:

  • He can do this work.

4. Could is the past form of can but it does not necessarily represent past time. Often it implies a more uncertain condition than can.

  • She could refuse, but she never does.

5.A- Should is the past form of shall. It is used in subordinate clauses after in case and sometimes after if :

  • I shall get some money in case of a brother comes.
  • If you should see Raj, give him my regards.

B- It is also used in past sentences with so that and, in order that :

  • He turned the stereo down very low so that he should not disturb him.

C- Should can also be used in subordinate clauses when we are expressing the idea that something must be done or is important. The fact is that this happens after verbs like a command, order, request, insist, suggest, advise etc. & after adjectives like important, vital, essential, necessary, eager, anxious, concerned etc.

  • She insisted that the contract should be read aloud.
  • I am anxious that nobody should be hurt.

D- Should is also used in subordinate clauses in sentences where we express personal reactions to events. We express our reactions with words like—amazing, interesting, shocked, sorry, normal, natural, it’s a shame etc.

  • I am sorry you should think I did it on purpose.
  • I was shocked that she should not have invited Mr Kapoor.

6. A- Must is followed by the infinitive without to

  • I must get up at five tomorrow.

B- Must is used to give strong advice or orders :

  • I really must stop drinking.
  • You must be here by 8 o’clock.

C- Must is used to say that we are sure about something

  • I am in love—that must be nice.

D- Must is used after a past reporting verb.

  • I felt there must be something wrong.

7. A- Should and Ought have similar meanings, but ought is followed by to. Ought to has a more objective force and is used when we are talking about laws, duties and regulations

  • We ought to see her tomorrow.

B- Should and ought to can also be used to talk about strong probability:

  • He has bought thirty pints of whisky—that ought to be enough.

C- To talk about things which did not happen, although they were supposed to, we use should and ought to with the perfect infinitive :

  • The taxi should have arrived at 8.30.

8. A- Do is used to make the question and negative forms of ordinary verbs :

  • Do you know Rajat?
  • I don’t like trout.

B- Do is used in question-tags and short answers:

  • You know painting, do you?
  • Does he know I and here? —Yes, he does.

C- Do is used before an imperative to make the request more persuasive :

  • Do accompany us.

D- Do is not used in questions which have who, what or which as their subject :

  • Who said that?
  • What happened?
  • Which one’s that?

E- But if who, what or which is the object of the sentence, do is used:

  • Who did you see?
  • Which department do you want?
                                 INCORRECT                                     CORRECT
1. Will I know the result?

 2. You shall help the poor. It is my advice.

 3. Will I come in? I am sorry for being late.

 4. He worked hard but he may not pass.

5. He said that he can do that work.

 6. One of my friends are a doctor.

7. Ten miles are a long distance.

8. I will rather starve than beg .

 9. He use to drink before marriage.

10. Walk slowly lest you will fall.

11. He said that he will help me.

 12. Bread and butter are a good breakfast.

 13. There are potatoes and cabbage for lunch.

14. If you may work hard, you will pass.

1. Shall I know the result?

2. You should help the poor. It is my advice.

 3. May I come in? I am sorry for being late.

 4. He worked hard but he could not pass.

 5. He said that he could do that work.

6. One of my friends is a doctor.

 7. Ten miles is a long distance.

8. I would rather starve than beg.

9. He used to drink before marriage.

 10. Walk slowly lest you should fall.

11. He said that he would help me.

 12. Bread and butter is a good breakfast.

 13. There is potatoes and cabbage for lunch.

 14. If you work hard, you will pass.