Main Verbs, Auxiliary Verbs (Helping Verbs) and
Compound Verbs

English sentences can have main verbs, auxiliary verbs (also called helping verbs) and compound verbs.

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Let's go over each group.

Auxiliary Verbs
(also called "helping verbs")

Auxiliary verbs are verbs that are used together with another verb (called the main verb of the sentence) to express the action or state.

Main verb + auxiliary verb = complete idea

The most common auxiliary verbs are:
be, am, is, are, was, were, do, did, have, has, had.

Are singing

Are singing

The main verb is "singing."
The auxiliary verb is "are."

Example sentences (the auxiliary verb is in bold, and the main verb is underlined):
  • They are jogging.

  • She was sitting.

  • We were waiting for hours.

  • Is she sleeping?

  • He didn't know the answer.

  • We have gone a long way.

  • Has she received any of my letters?

  • Do you smoke?

  • Will she help?

Click here to learn more about helping verbs.

Practice with an Illustrated Worksheet on English Helping Verbs.

Compound Verbs

A compound verb = auxiliary verb + main verb.

was playing, has eaten, doesn't want.

She will fall.

"Will fall" is a compound verb.

Example sentences:
  • They were discussing their future.
  • He didn't tell us the truth.
  • I have finished my homework.
  • She will meet us there.

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