VERBS • A verb describes an action or the state of being.

Examples: write, read, is, are, walk etc Verbs can be divided into two main types. 1. Helping Verbs 2. Main Verbs

1. Helping Verbs
Imagine that a stranger walks into your room and says:
• • •

I can. People must. The Earth will.

Do you understand anything? Has this person communicated anything to you? Probably not! That's because these verbs are helping verbs and have no meaning on their own. They are necessary for the grammatical structure of the sentence, but they do not tell us very much alone. We usually use helping verbs with main verbs. They "help" the main verb. (The sentences in the above examples are therefore incomplete. They need at least a main verb to complete them.)

2. Main Verbs
Now imagine that the same stranger walks into your room and says:
• • •

I teach. People eat. The Earth rotates.

Do you understand something? Has this person communicated something to you? Probably yes! Not a lot, but something. That's because these verbs are main verbs and have meaning on their own. They tell us something. Of course, there are thousands of main verbs.

John Trento


happy. Go want now. any. to me. coffee. am ( I ). and have. were ( you. Primary Helping Verbs These are the verbs be. she. plural subject) • have o to make perfect tenses (I have finished my homework.she. Note that we can use these three verbs as helping verbs or as main verbs. We use them in the following cases: • be o o to make continuous tenses (He is watching TV. plural subjects) Past Forms: was (I. singular subject). On this page we talk about them as helping verbs. we.) 2 John Trento .) to make the passive (Small fish are eaten by big fish. it. we. Notice that all of these sentences have a main verb. he singular subject).In the following table we see example sentences with helping verbs and main verbs. they. do. helping verb John You They The children We I Are Must Do Not main verb likes lied Are playing. are ( you.) Forms of verb “be” are: Present Forms: is (he. they. Only some of them have a helping verb.

are. The boys ____ go to the picnic. have. is. has.) Modal Helping Verbs We use modal helping verbs to "modify" the meaning of the main verb in some way.) to stand for a main verb in some constructions (He speaks faster than she does. Would you like a cup of coffee? You should see a doctor. They _____ help their mother. EXERCISE 1. John may arrive late. might will. are ) John Trento 3 . have. can ) 4. would. I really must go now. are) 2. A modal helping verb expresses necessity or possibility. shall. I _____ jump over the fence. The baby _____ sleeping. will. have) 5. and changes the main verb in that sense. These are the modal verbs: • • • • • • can. is.• do o o o o to make negatives (I do not like you. ( will. ( is. was ) 3. Julie _____ finish her homework.) to ask questions (Do you want some coffee?) to show emphasis (I do want you to pass your exam. should. is. should must ought to Here are examples using modal verbs: • • • • • I can't speak Chinese. could may.( am. has. (can. ( must.

should) 8. Bob _____ come with us. am. I _____ writing correctly. The bears _____ fighting. ( will. have ) 7. ( would. ( are. were) 9. Mary _____ sitting on the swing. has. had. ( is.6. would. can. may. ( am. are. have. was ) 10. must ) ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- John Trento 4 . The girls _____ sweeping the floor. have. are.