Helping Verbs, Definition, Examples and Exercise

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.

She is writing a letter.

I am listening to music.

  • to have:have, has, had

These are used in perfect tenses.

She has stolen the car already by then.

  • to do:do, does, did

These are emphatic verbs. They emphasize the main verb.

She doesn’t know anything.

  • conditionals (also called modal auxiliaries): could, should, would, can, shall, will, may, might, must

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

You should go home and lie down.

I can run a mile in 8 minutes.

I might go to the park after school today.

I would be nice if a rainbow appeared.

Grandma could arrive any minute.

Will you give me some money?

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.

Is she reading a novel?

She is reading a novel.

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 beTo haveTo doConditionals
am
are
is
was
were
be
being
been    
have
has
had            
do
does
did            
could
should
would
can
shall
will
may
might
must    

Find out Helping Verbs From the examples for exercise:

  • Katy is watching television.
  • The other children were playing outside.
  • I have finished washing the dishes.
  • I do not care for broccoli.
  • You could try using a stepladder.
  • It might be full of passengers.
  • You should wait a little longer.
  • Will she prefer to ride with Emily instead?
  • Will Katy ride with James to soccer practice?
  • You should wait a little longer.

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