Auxiliary Verb: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is a Verb?
  • 0:54 Verb Phrases
  • 1:43 Main Verbs
  • 2:48 Auxiliary Verbs
  • 5:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

In this lesson, we will review the definition of a verb and different verb phrases. Then, we'll look at a few examples to help differentiate between the main verb and auxiliary verbs.

What Is a Verb?

A verb is arguably one of the most important parts of any sentence. Without it, the sentence would have no purpose. A verb is the word that expresses an action, condition, or state of being. To find the verb in any sentence, just ask, 'What is the subject doing?' The answer will be the verb. Look at some examples:

  • I ate an apple this morning.

In this sentence, what did the subject, 'I,' do? Well, the sentence says I 'ate,' so 'ate' is the verb in that sentence. Let's look at another one.

  • My sister eats a banana every day.

In this one, what is the subject, 'sister,' doing? My sister 'eats,' so 'eats' is the verb in that sentence.

Verb Phrases

Not all sentences are as simple as the examples listed above. In fact, most of the time, you use much more complex words to express specific situations. Let's look at another example.

  • I should eat an apple every morning.

This sentence is very similar to our first example. Both sentences discuss eating apples in the morning. However, there is one important difference. Do you see which word is added to this sentence that makes it different than the first? The word 'should' is placed in front of the verb 'eat.' 'Should' is then considered part of the verb. 'Should eat' is a verb phrase. A verb phrase consists of two or more verbs linked together.

Main Verbs

Let's take a second look at that last example.

  • I should eat an apple every morning.

You have already seen how this sentence has more than one verb. It has the verb phrase 'should eat.' When you have a verb phrase, it is important to be able to identify which is the main verb. The main verb is the verb which cannot be removed from the sentence. If it is removed, the sentence loses all meaning. Look at the sentence. Let's remove the word 'should.'

  • I eat an apple every morning.

Does this sentence still make sense? Yes, it certainly does. Now remove the word 'eat' instead of 'should.'

  • I should an apple every morning.

Does it make sense now? Of course not. If you said this to someone, that person would ask, 'You should what?' Thus, for this sentence, 'eat' is the main verb. The sentence loses all meaning if the verb 'eat' is removed.

Auxiliary Verbs

So we have determined how to identify the main verb in any sentence. But what about the other verbs attached to a main verb? Those are called auxiliary verbs, or helping verbs. Auxiliary verbs help the main verb express shades of meaning or time. Look at this pair of sentences:

  • My sister eats a banana every day.
  • My brother should eat a banana every day.

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