GRAMMAR AND MECHANICS
The Verb System: Verb Forms with Auxiliaries
Auxiliaries are a group of verbs that can be placed before main verbs to form expanded verbs. In an expanded verb, the auxiliary shows tense (past or present) and person (singular or plural). The main verb shows the action or state being described. Expanded verbs are used to form questions and negatives, to make predictions and express uncertain conditions, and to show certain time frames (tense). There are four groups of auxiliaries in English: the DO group, the MODALS, the HAVE group, and the BE group. The form of the main verb depends on which group the auxiliary that precedes it belongs to. The chart below illustrates the four auxiliary groups and the verb form(s) that follows each of them.
The DO group: A form of Do followed by the base form of a verb is used to form a question or a negative statement: e.g., I eat ice cream ===> Do I eat ice cream? or ===> I do not eat ice cream. If there is already an auxiliary in a statement, use that auxiliary instead of Do to form a question or negative from that statement: e.g., She is eating ice cream ===> Is she eating ice cream? or ===> She is not eating ice cream. Do is also used to add emphasis to a positive statement: e.g., I hate vegetables, but I do eat them. The MODALS: A modal plus the base form of a verb is used to speak about a future time, to make predictions, express uncertain conditions, or show politeness: e.g. We will eat dinner at 7pm. He promised that he would be home for dinner. I might be unable to finish my work on time. Would you call me if you are going to be late, please? Note that all modal forms may be used in present time frames: e.g. I think I will go. I think I might go. I wish I could go. However, only would, could, might, and should can be used in past time frames: e.g., He said he would go. We thought you should know. He knew they could do it. The HAVE group: A form of Have followed by the -ed/-en form of a verb is used to show that an action began prior to the main time frame of a passage. Have and has are used for action beginning prior to the present. Had is used to show action beginning prior to a time in the past. e.g., They have lived in New York since 1989. By 1986 we had lived in six different cities. The BE group: After auxiliaries of the Be group, there are two possible forms of the main verb. Be + -ing is used to show that an action is going on at a particular moment or continuing throughout a period of time: e.g., They were eating dinner when the phone rang. We are learning to cook from our dad. Be + -ed/-en is used to show that action of the verb is not done by the subject. e.g., I was taken to a dance on my 16th birthday. Materials adapted from A Tapestry Grammar, Heinle
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