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.

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

Have is used to make perfect verbs forms.

Primary auxiliaries merely help to express statements of fact.

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.

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.

To express a command or request

Be can be used to express a command or request.

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.).

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.

With the Past Participles of Transitive verbs

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


Be + infinitive

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

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

Be + perfect infinitive

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

Be + passive infinitive

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

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.

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

To make imperative sentences

Do can be used with be to make imperative sentences.

As an ordinary verb

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

The auxiliary do and ordinary do can sometimes occur together.

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.


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.

Questions and negatives are made without do.

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

Have as an ordinary verb

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

Have: structures

Have + object

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

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

Points to be noted

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

Progressive forms are possible.

Have Got

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

Do is not used in questions and negatives with got.

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

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

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’.

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

Points to be noted

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

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.

Another meaning is ‘experience’.

Have to, have got to

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

Points to be noted

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

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).

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