Primary auxiliaries

An auxiliary verb is one which helps other verbs to make tenses, passive forms etc. There are two groups – primary auxiliaries and modal auxiliaries.

Primary auxiliaries

Be, do, have and their various forms are called primary auxiliaries.

Be is used with other verbs to make progressive and passive verbs forms.

  • I am writing.
  • He was punished for lying.

Do is used to make questions, negatives and emphatic forms of non-auxiliary verbs.

  • Do you know where John lives?
  • I don’t know.
  • Do sit down.

Have is used to make perfect verbs forms.

  • I have completed my work.
  • She has acted in a film.
  • They had forgotten to send the letter.

Primary auxiliaries merely help to express statements of fact.

  • She is writing.
  • I am working.
  • You have done wrong.
  • He did not come in time.
  • They have arrived.

Note that be, do and have can also function as principal verbs. They are called auxiliaries only when they help other verbs to form their tenses and moods.

  • You were wrong. (Principal verb)
  • You have done wrong. (Auxiliary verb)
  • She is a good singer. (Principal verb)
  • She is singing. (Auxiliary verb)

Be as an ordinary verb

Be is used both as a principal verb and as an auxiliary verb.

Be as a principal verb

Linking verb

Be and its forms (is, am, are, was and were) are usually used to link the subject with a following word.

  • Alice is an advocate.
  • Mary is very intelligent.
  • You are wonderful.
  • He was angry.
To express a command or request

Be can be used to express a command or request.

  • Be quite.
  • Don’t be silly.
  • Be off.
  • Be a good girl.
Special uses of Be

Be is used in a number of expressions about physical feelings (hunger, thirst etc.) and physical conditions (age, size, colour etc.).

  • I am Manju.
  • She is 25.
  • He is an architect.
  • We are happy.
  • It is cold today.
  • I am thirsty.
  • Are you hungry?
  • It is very cold.
  • He is tall.
  • She is fair.

Be as an auxiliary verb

With the Present Participles

Be is used with the present participles of verbs to make the present and past progressive tenses.

  • I am writing. (Present Progressive)
  • She was standing at the gate. (Past Progressive)
  • She is knitting a sweater. (Present Progressive)
  • You were sleeping. (Past progressive)
With the Past Participles of Transitive verbs

Be can combine with the past participles of transitive verbs to form the passive voice.

  • I was shocked.
  • He was treated badly.
  • You are rewarded for your service.
  • They are sold cheap.


Be + infinitive

Be can be followed by a to-infinitive. This structure is used to talk about plans and arrangements.

  • I am to meet him tomorrow.
  • He is to arrive soon.
  • They are to get married next month.

Be + infinitive can also be used to give commands or orders.

  • You are to finish your homework before you go to bed.
  • You are to sit in that corner and keep quiet.
  • You are not to misbehave with the servants.
Be + perfect infinitive

A perfect infinitive (to have + past participle) can be used after be to show that a planned event did not happen.

  • They were to have been married last month, but had to postpone the marriage.
Be + passive infinitive

Be+ passive infinitive (to be + past participle) is often used in notices and instructions.

  • This medicine is to be taken twice daily.
  • The sticker on this bottle is not to be removed.
  • This book is not to be resold.

Auxiliary Verb Do

Do has three main uses.

As an Auxiliary Verb

The auxiliary do is used to make emphatic, interrogative and negative verb forms. It is followed by an infinitive without to.

  • Did you post the letters?
  • Do you like football?
  • This doesn’t taste very nice
  • Do sit down.
  • I do admit that I was wrong.
  • He did come.

Note that we use do to make questions and negatives with ordinary verbs, but not with other auxiliary verbs.

  • Do you like dancing? (NOT Like you dancing?)
  • I don’t like reading. (NOT I like not reading.)
  • Are they sleeping? (NOT Do they are sleeping?)
  • I will not come. (NOT I do not will come.)
  • Will you help me? (NOT Do you will help me?)
  • I can’t see anything. (NOT I do not can see anything.)
To make imperative sentences

Do can be used with be to make imperative sentences.

  • Don’t be silly!
  • Do be quite!
  • Do be a good child.

As an ordinary verb

Do is also an ordinary verb. The ordinary verb do can refer to almost any kind of activity.

  • What were you doing in the morning?
  • What did you do then?
  • Do as I tell you.
  • It was a stupid thing to do.
  • Can’t you do it yourself?
  • You are a grown up man now. You should be able to do things on your own.
  • Do with me what you like.
  • I don’t know what I did to make her angry.

The auxiliary do and ordinary do can sometimes occur together.

  • What did you do then? (Did – auxiliary, do- ordinary)
  • I don’t do well in mathematics. (Don’t-auxiliary, do- ordinary)

Note that the ordinary do has infinitives (to do, to be done) and participles (doing, done).

Do – Other uses

Do can be used to avoid repeating a verb or a verb phrase.

  • She looks much younger than her husband does. (= …her husband looks.)
  • May I join you? Please do. (= Please join us.)
  • Who said that? I did. (= I said that.)
  • I thought I would take a day off school today. No you don’t. (= You are not going to take a day off.)


Auxiliary Have

Have is used both as an ordinary verb and as an auxiliary verb.

As an auxiliary verb

As an auxiliary verb, have is used with past participles to make perfect verb forms.

  • She has acted in a film. (Present Perfect.)
  • I have been to the US. (Present Perfect)
  • Have you heard of the Unidentified Flying Objects? (Present Perfect)
  • I realized that I had met him before. (Past Perfect)
  • I will have finished this work by the end of this month. (Future Perfect)

Questions and negatives are made without do.

  • He has gone to the market.
  • Has he gone to the market? (NOT Does he have gone to the market.)
  • He hasn’t gone to the market. (NOT He doesn’t have gone to the market.)
  • Have you seen him before?
  • No, I haven’t seen him before.

There are no progressive (having) forms of the auxiliary verb have.

  • He has gone to school. (NOT He is having gone to the school.)

Have as an ordinary verb

As an ordinary verb, have is used to talk about states: possession, relationships, illnesses, personal characteristics and similar ideas.

  • We have a big house in the city. (Possession)
  • I have two children. (Relations)
  • The applicant must have a good personality. (Personal characteristics)
  • She has a nice temper. (Personal characteristics)
  • I have a bad headache. (Illnesses)
  • He has plenty of money, but no manners. (Possession)

Have: structures

Have + object

The structure have + object is often used to talk about actions and experiences.

  • Let us have a drink.
  • I was having a bath.
  • Have a nice time.

In these expressions, have is used in the sense of ‘eat’, ‘drink’, ‘enjoy’, ‘experience’ etc. Common expressions are:

  • have a drink/ supper/ lunch/ breakfast/ a meal/ dinner/ coffee/ tea
  • have a wash/ a bath/ a shower
  • have a talk/ a chat/ a quarrel/ a fight
  • have a swim/ a walk/ a ride/ a game of chess
Points to be noted

In this structure, we make questions and negatives with do.

  • He had a word with his boss.
  • He didn’t have a word with his boss.
  • Did he have a word with his boss?

Progressive forms are possible.

  • I was having a bath when the telephone rang.
  • They were having a nap when the thieves broke in.
Have Got

Have got means exactly the same as have in most cases.

  • She has got a bad temper. (= She has a bad temper.)
  • I have got a headache. (= I have a headache.)
  • I have got an appointment with the manager this evening. (= I have an appointment with the manager this evening.)

Do is not used in questions and negatives with got.

  • Have you got a sister? (NOT Do you have got …)

Note that got forms of have are not common in the past tense.

  • I had a cold last week. (NOT I had got a cold last week.)

Progressive forms of have are not normally possible with this meaning.

  • I have (got) a headache. (NOT I am having a headache.)
Have + object + infinitive/participle

Have can be followed by object + infinitive (without to), object + -ing and object + past participle.

Have + object + infinitive/-ing

In this structure have often means ‘experience’.

  • We had some difficulty finding the house.
  • I have trouble coming up with new ideas.
  • Last night we had a strange thing happen to us.
  • It is nice to have you sitting by me all the day.

Another meaning is ‘cause somebody or something to do something’.

  • The film soon had us crying.

Points to be noted

After have + object, we use an infinitive without to.

  • Last night we had a strange thing happen to us. (NOT…strange thing happened/to happen to us.)

Here the infinitive suggests a completed action; -ing form suggests continuity.

Have + Object + Past Participle

This structure is used to talk about arranging for things to be done by others. The past participle has a passive meaning.

  • We are having the house painted next month.
  • We must have the roof repaired.

Another meaning is ‘experience’.

  • She had her car stolen last week.
  • We had our roof blown off in the storm.
Have to, have got to

Have (got) to is often used to talk about obligation. The meaning is similar to must.

  • I have to be there by 5 o’ clock. (= I must be there by 5 o’ clock.)
  • He has to finish the work himself. (He must finish the work himself.)
  • I have to do something before it is too late. (= I must do something before it is too late.)

Points to be noted

1. Had to is used to talk about obligation that existed in the past.

    • I had to be there by 5 o’ clock.
    • He had to finish the work himself.

2. In this structure have can be used like an ordinary verb (with do in questions and negatives), or like an auxiliary verb (without do).

  • You have to be back in 10 minutes.
  • When do I have to be back? (used like an ordinary verb)
  • When have I (got) to be back?
  • (used like an auxiliary verb)
  • Do I have to be back in 10 minutes? (ordinary verb)
  • Have I got to be back in ten minutes? (auxiliary verb

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