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Teaching ESL Auxiliary Verbs: Exercises & Games

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Correctly using auxiliary verbs is an essential skill for ESL learners. In this lesson, teachers are provided with exercises and games designed to teach auxiliary verbs to ESL learners.

Auxiliary Verb Review

Fun exercises and games can be useful tools in teaching ESL students, especially when it comes to drier subjects such as auxiliary verbs. We'll look at some activities for teaching auxiliary verbs in this lesson. But before using any of the activities below, it's important to first review auxiliary verbs with your students.

Since auxiliary verbs help the main verb in a sentence, one way to help the class remember this is to refer to them as ''helping verbs'' as well as ''auxiliary verbs.'' Also, instead of simply giving them the definition and examples auxiliary verbs, try to find out what they already know. It's sometimes surprising how much students have learned independently.

Then, you can help clarify the definition, if necessary, and provide examples. Be sure to provide examples of the three most common auxiliary verbs, ''have,'' ''be,'' and ''do,'' such as:

  • Do you want a ride? (In this sentence ''do'' is the auxiliary verb and ''want'' is the main verb.)

It can also be helpful to provide students with a handout of auxiliary verbs that they can refer to during the activities (or write the verbs on the board and have students copy in their notes). In addition to ''have,'' ''be,'' and ''do,'' other common auxiliary verbs to add to the list include:

  • be (am, are, is, was, were, being, been)
  • can
  • could
  • dare
  • do (does, did)
  • have (has, had, having)
  • may
  • might
  • must
  • need
  • ought
  • shall
  • should
  • will
  • would

Now, let's explore some ESL auxiliary verb exercises and games.

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