Helping Verbs, also called Auxiliary Verbs, are not always clearly understood.
It is not uncommon among students of English, especially those who began seriously learning the language late in life, to mistakenly believe that some words are always auxiliary verbs and others always main verbs.
For instance, in the minds of such students, the verb 'is' in the sentence, 'John is a good student.' is incorrectly branded as an auxiliary verb. They consider all occurrences of 'is' as auxiliary verbs.
The truth is that the verb 'is' can function as a helping verb in one sentence and as a main verb in another...
Helping Verbs are part of finite verb phrases.
Finite verb phrases usually have a main part and a helping part.
Finite verbs are usually phrases (groups of words), except for two instances, when they are single words.
Those two exceptional cases are:
Here are some examples of finite verb phrases in sentences...
The finite verbs in the sentences above can be broken up into helping verbs
and main verbs as follows:
|Helping verb(s)||Main Verb|
From this table we know that write, written and writing are the main verbs. Each of them is a different form of the verb 'to write.'
All the other verbs in the table are helping verbs.
You can also notice that in the four sentences above...
There is a main verb in all the sentences. So, a helping verb requires a main verb to receive its help.
Without a main verb, there can be no helping verb.
They perform some grammatical function, as...
These are called Primary Auxiliaries.
They add meaning to the meaning of the main verb. What they add are meanings like...
These are called Modal Auxiliaries or simply, Modals.