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Auxiliary Verbs

1. Introduction

Auxiliary verbs (sometimes known as helping verbs) are verbs that are used to assist the verb.

There are two groups:

 Primary auxiliaries used mainly to change the tense or voice of the main verb, and in making
questions and negatives.

 Modal auxiliaries used to change the "mood" of the main verb.

2. Primary auxiliaries

Be, do, have and their various forms are called primary auxiliaries (trợ từ chính).

Be is used with other verbs to make progressive and passive verbs forms.

 I am writing.

 He was punished for lying.

Do is used to make questions, negatives and emphatic forms of non-auxiliary verbs.

 Do you know where John lives?

 I don’t know.

 Do sit down.

Have is used to make perfect verbs forms.

 I haven’t completed my work.

 She has acted in a film.

 They had forgotten to send the letter.

Primary auxiliaries merely help to express statements of fact.

 She is writing.

 I am working.

 You have done wrong.

 He did not come in time.

 They have arrived.

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Note that be, do and have can also function as principal verbs (động từ chính). They are called auxiliaries
only when they help other verbs to form their tenses (các thì) and moods (thức).

 You were wrong. (Principal verb)

 You have done wrong. (Auxiliary verb)

 She is a good singer. (Principal verb)

 She is singing. (Auxiliary verb)

3. Modal auxiliaries

3.1. Definition

The verbs will, would, shall, should, can, could, may, might, must, ought, and need are usually called
modal auxiliaries (trợ động từ khiếm khuyết/khuyết thiếu). They are used with other verbs to express
actions, events or situations that exist only as conceptions of the mind (nhận thức của trí óc) – permissions,
possibilities, certainty, ability, wishes, obligations etc. They may also express simple futurity.

 I can swim.

 She will come.

 I must go now.
 Should I call them?

 She might come.

3.2. Characteristics

Modal auxiliaries have three common characteristics.

1. They are never used alone. A principal verb is either present or implied.

 I can fly an aeroplane.

 He should behave.

 Will you go? Yes, I will (go).

2. Modal auxiliaries have no –s in the third person singular.

 I can swim.

 She can swim. (NOT She cans …)

 I may pass.

 He may pass.

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3. Modal auxiliaries do not have infinitives (to may, to shall etc.) or participles (maying, shalling, shalled etc.).
You cannot say to shall, to must or to may.

3.3. Meaning of Modal Auxiliaries

Modal Meaning Example


Will  Be willing to  I will pen the window for you.

 Intend to  I won't be in the office until 11; I've got a meeting.

 To talk about what will  Ann will be 10 years old next month.
happen in the future.

Shall  Intend to (formal)  Where shall we meet?

 Have decided to  She shall ask the conference.

May  Be possible to do  Each nurse may be responsible for up to twenty

 It might rain this evening.
Can 3
 Can you be off next Monday?

Would  To talk about the past  After dinner we would sit in a common room and chat
habits for a while.

 Be willing to  She said she would be try her best to finish the work.

 Polite requests and offers  Would you like another cup of tea?

Can  Be allowed to do  May I have one?

Could  You can take both of them.


Must  Be required to do  Every must be on time.

 Be necessary  I must stop smoking.

 Be logically certain  You must be very busy.

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Should  Be obliged to do  The equipment should be inspected regularly.

Ought to  Give advice  You should/ought to get your hair cut.

Need  Ask for or give permission  You need not work to day.

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