Main Verb & Auxiliary Verb (Helping Verb)

Main verb and auxiliary verb are important parts of sentence. Both of them contribute to make a correct sentence.

A main verb is a verb that expresses an action. It gives the major information in terms of nature of the action. e.g. write, eat, buy, help.

On the other hand, an auxiliary verb does not give major information in terms of an action. It tells more about the time of the action, not the nature of action.  Auxiliary verbs are used in sentence according to the rules of English tenses in order to give information about the time of the main verb.  e.g. is, was, am, have, had, will.

The main verb expresses nature of the action. The auxiliary verb helps the main verb in expressing the time the action.


She is sleeping.              (action is being done in the present)
She was sleeping.         (action was being done in the past)

In the above sentence, the verb ‘sleep’ is a main verb which tells about the nature of action (sleeping). In the same sentence, the auxiliary verbs ‘is’ and ‘was’ express time of the action in both sentence. The auxiliary verb ‘is’ in the first sentence reveal that the action is being done in present. In the second sentence, the auxiliary verb ‘was’ reveal that the action was being done in the past.

Main verbs have major meaning in terms of action. Main verb is also called Principal Verb.
Auxiliary verbs do not have meaning of their own. It complements the structure of sentence according to the rules of tenses to reveal the time of action. Auxiliary verb is also called Helping Verb as it helps the main verb in giving proper information to the reader.

There are two types of Auxiliary verbs: 1. Primary Auxiliaries      2. Modal Auxiliary

  Primary Auxiliaries:

There three primary auxiliary verbs: be, do & have.

The primary verbs are used according to the rules of tenses to make a correct structure of sentence.

Be (is, am, are): These are used in sentences of continuous tenses.
He is running.     (Present Continuous tense)

Have (have, has, had): These are use in sentences of perfect tense.
She has gone.     (Present prefect tense)
I had bought a camera.   (Past perfect tense)

Do (do, does, did). These are used in sentences of simple or indefinite tense.
He does not eat an orange.   (Present simple tense)
She didn’t wait for him.        (Past simple)

  Modal auxiliaries

Modal auxiliaries are used to show ideas like “possibility, ability, necessity, or intention.

Could, Can, (ability)
Might, May  (possibility)
shall, will would (intention)
Should (necessity)
Ought to (necessity)
Must (necessity)

Modal auxiliary is used before a main verb as a helping verb

He can drive a bike.
He may come now.
A student must take his exams.
They might come today.
He must reach in time.