BE, DO, HAVE: These Verbs are used as Main verbs and Auxiliary Verbs in English
In English, the verbs Be Do and Have can function as both MAIN VERBS and AUXILIARY VERBS. The problem for learners of English is that it is not always clear when to employ these verbs and in what context.
The verb “to be” helps to form the foundation of the English language. There almost is no English without the verb “to be.” If you are not intimately familiar with how to use the verb “to be,” you can never claim to be fluent in English.
As a Main Verb
You can use Be as a main verb to express a state of being. For example: “I AM HAPPY.”
In this sentence, Be is the main verb. In this case it is the first person form of Be which is AM. Do you remember how to conjugate BE? Below are 3 tenses of the verb “to be.” There at least 10 other tenses but that would be for another post:
SIMPLE PRESENT PAST SIMPLE FUTURE SIMPLE
I am I was I will
You are you were you will
He/she/it is he/she/it was he/she/it will
We are We were We Will
They are They were They will
Note that to use BE as a main verb, it has to be either in the simple present tense or the simple past tense. For example: I AM HAPPY becomes I WAS HAPPY. If you use the future tense I WILL BE HAPPY technically “will” is a modal verb which is an auxiliary or helping verb so in the future tense,
it is difficult you cannot use BE as a main verb. It only seems to work in the present tense and the simple past tense. But consider, for example, this: YOU ARE TO ACT HAPPY NO MATTER WHAT. It is still the main verb but with a modal (obligation) connotation – a kind of helper feel.
As an auxiliary verb
You can also use BE as an auxiliary and helping verb to show various verb tenses and moods such as: I AM SLEEPING. I WAS EATING. I WILL BE EATING IN A FEW MINUTES. Notice that as a helper or auxiliary verb, BE accompanies a main verb – in this case the verb is “to eat.”
Note that BE is followed by “ing” tenses when used as an auxiliary except if the PASSIVE TENSES are being used in which case you would use the past participle, example: “The bird was eaten by the cat.” Or, “the baby is fed by it’s nanny.” Or, “The secretary is being yelled at by the client.
This verb is used both as a main verb and an auxiliary verb.
As a main verb
You use DO to refer to an action or activity: I DO MY HOMEWORK. I DO THE DISHES EVERY TUESDAY. I DO THE CROSSWORD PUZZLES IN THE NEW YORK TIMES.
As an auxiliary verb
DO is used in several different ways.
- To show emphasis: I do believe you. I did believe you.
- To express a negative action: I do not know what you mean.
- To ask a question: Do you have a pen?
Notice that when used as auxiliary verbs, DO IS FOLLOWED BY THE PRESENT or infinitive form of the verb (as opposed to “have” which is followed by the past participle)
As a main verb HAVE is used to express possession : I HAVE THREE SISTERS. THEY HAVE MONEY. AMERICA HAS A FUNNY PRESIDENT.
As an auxiliary verb you need have to:
- Ask a question in the perfect tense, example: “have you got any money?”
- To express a negative: “You have not done your homework”
More on English verbs you must know