Helping Verbs

Helping verbs, also known as auxiliary verbs, lend a helping hand to the main verb in a sentence.

Helping Verbs

These verbs can assist in:

  1. Forming a question (Does the party start at 9?)
  2. Creating a negative statement (I could not attend the party)
  3. Showing a possibility (They might be at the party)
  4. Dictating verb tense (She has already left for the party)

Helping verbs are categorized as either primary helping verbs or modal helping verbs.

Primary helping verbs help a main verb, but can also serve as the main verb in a sentence. Primary helping verbs include “be”, “do”, and “have” verbs. An example of the use of a primary helping verb is the verb “is” in the sentence “She is watching a movie.” In this sentence, “is” helps the main verb “watching”. However “is” can function as a main verb, for example in the sentence “She is happy.” In this instance “is” works as a linking verb.

Primary Helping Verbs Examples

Verb Example
Be He is playing football.
Do Does she work here?
Have I have finished my homework.

Modal helping verbs always help the main verbs and cannot be used alone in a sentence. Some modal helping verbs are “could”,“must”, and “will”. These verbs can express expectation, possibility, necessity, and much more. Therefore, modal helping verbs can be used to form conditional sentences, which are statements that discuss facts or hypotheticals and their consequences.

Modal Helping Verbs Examples

Verb Expresses Example
could possibility She could dance salsa.
must necessity I must go to work today.
will expectation He will write the report.

The following helping verb list includes both primary and modal helping verbs. VocabularySpellingCity provides additional helping verb word lists that can be imported and paired with learning games and activities to use for helping verbs practice.