Most English speakers use auxiliary verbs every day, even if they\u2019ve never heard the term "auxiliary verb" before. But what are they? Why are they also known as "helping" verbs? And when should you use them in your writing?\r\nIn this post, we explain the basics of how auxiliary verbs work.\r\nAuxiliary Verbs: Be, Have, Do\r\nAuxiliary verbs are known as "helping verbs" because they "help" other verbs: i.e., we use them alongside other verbs to form certain types of sentence.\r\nThe three main auxiliary verbs in English are "be," "have," and "do" in their various forms. You can see examples of these helpful verbs below in blue, along with the main verb in each sentence in green:\r\nHe is going back to school next week.\r\nThey have won all their matches so far.\r\nDo you like our garden?\r\nThese auxiliary verbs can help us to form tenses, switch to the passive voice, form negations, or add emphasis. We\u2019ll look at these uses below.\r\nHelping Verbs and Tense\r\nSometimes, we need an auxiliary verb to express a sentence in a specific tense. For the perfect tenses, we use a form of "have" plus a past participle:\r\nI have visited many countries.\r\nThey had listened carefully in class.\r\nIn the progressive tenses, we use a form of "be" with a present participle:\r\nWe are going to town today.\r\nShe was learning Spanish at school.\r\nIn these cases, then, auxiliary verbs "help" us to form different tenses.\r\nHelping Verbs and the Passive Voice\r\nWe can use a form of "be" with a past participle to form the passive voice:\r\nThe notes were taken by the researcher.\r\nDavid was impressed by the speech.\r\nHelping verbs can therefore help us to create an objective tone in writing.\r\nUsing "Do" for Emphasis and Negations\r\nWe can use "do" as a helping verb to make an emphatic statement:\r\nI do believe in fairies!\r\nDo let me know how you get on!\r\nI did finish my homework.\r\nWe also use it alongside another verb in negations (usually with "not"):\r\nDo not go outside after midnight!\r\nI don\u2019t want to leave yet.\r\nShe did not wash her hands.\r\nMost negations in English take this form, so "do" is an important little word!\r\nBe, Have and Do as Main Verbs\r\n"Be," "have," and "do" can all work as main verbs, too. This means they can be used to form a complete sentence by themselves. For example:\r\nShe is a doctor.\r\nI have four pet cats.\r\nWe do a lot in the office.\r\nIt is only when used alongside another verb they count as auxiliary verbs.\r\nAuxiliary Modal Verbs\r\nThere is another class of "helping" verb we haven\u2019t discussed: modal verbs. We use these to express things like ability, possibility, and permission.\r\nThe main modal verbs in English are "can," "could," "may," "might," "must," "shall," "should," "will," and "would." Like the other auxiliary verbs above, modal verbs go before a main verb in a sentence. For instance:\r\nHe can jump very high.\r\nIn this case, adding "can" before "jump" shows that we\u2019re discussing the person\u2019s ability to jump. Other modal verbs work in similar ways:\r\nWe might go to the party later.\r\nYou should read the book.\r\nMay I leave early today?\r\nSometimes, modal verbs can also be used before another helping verb in a verb phrase, such as in the following sentences:\r\nWe might have gone on another day.\r\nShe will be leaving tomorrow.\r\nThe key is picking the right modal verb for the situation!\r\nProofreading for Grammar\r\nIf you need to be sure you\u2019ve used the right verbs in the right places, our grammar experts can help. Upload a free trial document today and find out more about how proofreading could help you grow as a writer.