Classes of verbs

  1. There are two classes of verbs in English:
  2. The auxiliary verbs (auxiliaries): to be, to have, to do; can, could, may, might, must, ought, shall, should, will, would, to need, to dare, and used.
  3. All other verbs, which we may call ordinary verbs:

To work           to sing              to pray

  1. Be, have, do, need and dare have infinitives and participles like ordinary verbs, but can, could, may, might, must, ought, shall, should, will and would have neither infinitives nor participles and therefore have only a restricted number of forms.

Before studying auxiliaries it may be helpful to consider ordinary verbs, most of whose tenses are formed with auxiliaries.


Principal parts of the active verb

Affirmative Negative
Present infinitive To work Not to work
Present continuous infinitive To be working Not to be working
Perfect infinitive To have worked Not to have worked
Perfect continuous infinitive To have been working Not to have been working
Present participle and gerund Working Not working
Perfect participle and gerund Having worked Not having worked
Past participle worked

In regular verbs the simple past and the past participle are both formed by adding d or ed to the infinitive. Sometimes the final consonant of the infinitive has to be doubled, e.g. slip, slipped.

The present participle and gerund are always regular and are formed by adding ing to the infinitive. The rule concerning the doubling of the final consonant of the infinitive before adding ing applies here also.


  1. FORM
Present Simple He works
Continuous He is working
Perfect He has worked
Perfect Continuous He has been working
Past Simple He worked
Continuous He was working
Perfect He had worked
Perfect Continuous He had been working
Future Simple He will work
Continuous He will be working
Perfect He will have worked
Perfect Continuous He will have been working
Present Conditional He would work
Conditional Continuous He would be working
Perfect Conditional He would have worked
Conditional Continuous He would have been working
  1. Affirmative Contractions

The auxiliaries be, have, will, would are contracted as follows:

am ‘m Have ‘ve Will ‘ll
is ‘s Has ‘s Would ‘d
are ‘re Had ‘d    

Note that ‘s can be is or has and ‘d can be had or would:

He’s going = He is going
He’s gone = He has gone
He’d paid = He had paid
He’d like a drink = He would like a drink.

These contractions are used after pronouns, here, there, some question words and short nouns:

Here’s your pen. The twins’ve arrived. The car’d broken down.

Affirmative contractions are not used at the end of sentences:

You aren’t in a hurry but I am.

(I’m would not be possible here).

Shall/should, was and were are not written in a contracted form but are often contracted in speech to ʃl, ʃəd, wəz/ and /wə(r)/.

  1. Stress

Auxiliaries used to form tenses are normally unstressed. The stress falls on the main verb.


  1. The simple present tense: third person singular does not/doesn’t + infinitive; other persons do not/don’t + infinitive.

The simple past tense negative for all persons is did not/didn’t + infinitive.

Contractions are usual in speech:

He does not/doesn’t answer letters.

They do not/don’t live here.

I did not/didn’t phone her.

She did not/didn’t wait for me.

The negative of all other tenses is formed by putting not after the auxiliaries.

Contractions are usual in speech:

            He has not/hasn’t finished.

He would not/wouldn’t come.

  1. Negative Contractions

The auxiliaries be, have, will, would, shall, should, do are contracted as follows:

am not ‘m not
is not isn’t or ‘s not
are not aren’t or ‘re not
I’m not going and Tom isn’t going/Tom’s not going.
We aren’t going/We’re not going.

Have not and has not contract to haven’t and hasn’t , but in perfect tenses ‘ve not and ‘s not are also possible:

we haven’t seen him/We’ve not seen him.

He hasn’t/He’s not come yet.

Will not contracts to won’t, though ‘ll not is also possible. Shall not contracts to shan’t:

I won’t go/I’ll not go till I hear and I shan’t hear till tomorrow.

Other verb forms are contracted in the usual way by adding n’t. Negative contractions can come at the end of a sentence:

I saw it but he didn’t.

  1. In English a negative sentence can have only one negative expression in it. Two negative expressions give the sentence an affirmative meaning: Nobody did nothing means that everyone did something.

So never, no (adjective), none, nobody, no one, nothing, hardly, hardly ever etc. are used with an affirmative verb. We can say:

He didn’t eat anything or

He ate nothing.

He doesn’t ever complain or

He never complains.

We haven’t seen anyone or

We have seen no one.

They didn’t speak much or

They hardly spoke at all/They hardly ever spoke.



  1. Simple present tense interrogative: does he/she/it + infinitive; do I/you/we/they + infinitive.

Simple past tense interrogative: did + subject + infinitive.

Does Peter enjoy parties? Did he enjoy Ann’s party?

In all other tenses the interrogative is formed by putting the subject after the auxiliary:

Have you finished?      Are you coming?

  1. Contractions of auxiliaries used in the interrgative
  2. am, is, are, have, had, will  and would

after how, what, who, where, why, these can be contracted as shown above.

How will/How’ll he get there?            What has/What’s happened?

is and will can also be contracted after when:

            when is/When’s he coming?

Will can also be contracted after which:

            Which will/Which’ll you have?

When the verb comes first as in A above, it is not contracted in writing except in negative interrogative forms. But in speech it is usually contracted.

  1.  Shall, should, do and did are not written in contracted form, although do you is someties written d’you. In speech shall, should and do you are often contracted to /ʃl, ʃəd, dju:/.
  2. The interrogative form is used for questions, but it is not used:
  3. When the question is about the identity of the subject:

Who told you?             What happened?

  1. In indirect speech:

He said, ‘Where does she live?’ = He asked where she lived.

  1. If we place before the question a prefix such as Do you know, Can you tell me, I want to know, I’d like to know, I wonder/was wondering, Have you any idea, Do you think:

What time does it start? But have you any idea what time it starts?

Where does Peter live? But I wonder where Peter lives.

Will I have to pay duty on this? But

Do you think I’ll have/Do you know if I’ll have to pay duty?

  1. Requests are usually expressed by the interrogative:

Can/Could you help me?        Will/would you pay at the desk?

Would you like to come this way?

Would you mind moving your car?

But here again, if before the request we put a phrase such as

I wonder/was wondering or Do you think, the verb in the request changes from interrogative to affirmative:

Could you give me a hand with this? But

I wonder/was wondering/wondered if you could give me a hand or

Do you think you could give me a hand?

In indirect speech the problem does not arise, as indirect requests are expressed by a verb such as ask with object +infinitive:

He asked me to give him a hand.

  1. The interrogative is used in question tags after a negative verb:

You didn’t see him, did you?

  1. When, for emphasis, words/phrases such as never, rarely, seldom, only when, only by, not only, not till are placed first in a sentence the following main verb is put into the inverted (=interrogative) form:

Only when we landed did we see how badly the plane had been damaged.


  1. This is formed by putting not after the ordinary interrogative:

Did you not see her?               Is he not coming?

            But this form is almost always contracted:

Didn’t you see her?                 Isn’t he coming?

            Note that not is now before the subject.

am I not? Has an irregular contraction: aren’t I?

  1. The negative interrogative is used when the speaker expects or hopes for an affirmative answer:

Haven’t you finished yet?        Don’t you like my new dress?

CHILD: can’t I stay up till the end of the programme?

I could wait ten minutes. – Couldn’t you wait a little longer?

  1. The negative interrogative is also used in question tags after an affirmative sentence:

You paid him, didn’t you?

She would like to come, wouldn’t she?

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