Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Shakespeare's club

Home
Beliefs and Opinions
About Me
New Age
Student's Corner
Teachers
Grammar
Literature
Computer Literacy
Science & English
Related Links
Curricular framework
What's new for Parents
Contact Me
Verbs
Verb Classification

Verb Classification

We divide verbs into two broad classifications:

1. Helping Verbs

Imagine that a stranger walks into your room and says:

  • I can.
  • People must.
  • The Earth will.

Do you understand anything? Has this person communicated anything to you? Probably not! That's because these verbs are helping verbs and have no meaning on their own. They are necessary for the grammatical structure of the sentence, but they do not tell us very much alone. We usually use helping verbs with main verbs. They "help" the main verb. (The sentences in the above examples are therefore incomplete. They need at least a main verb to complete them.) There are only about 15 helping verbs.

2. Main Verbs

Now imagine that the same stranger walks into your room and says:

  • I teach.
  • People eat.
  • The Earth rotates.

Do you understand something? Has this person communicated something to you? Probably yes! Not a lot, but something. That's because these verbs are main verbs and have meaning on their own. They tell us something. Of course, there are thousands of main verbs.

In the following table we see example sentences with helping verbs and main verbs. Notice that all of these sentences have a main verb. Only some of them have a helping verb.

  helping verb   main verb  
John     likes coffee.
You     lied to me.
They     are happy.
The children are   playing.  
We must   go now.
I do not want any.

Enter content here

Helping Verbs

Helping verbs are also called "auxiliary verbs".

Helping verbs have no meaning on their own. They are necessary for the grammatical structure of a sentence, but they do not tell us very much alone. We usually use helping verbs with main verbs. They "help" the main verb (which has the real meaning). There are only about 15 helping verbs in English, and we divide them into two basic groups:

Primary helping verbs (3 verbs)

These are the verbs be, do, and have. Note that we can use these three verbs as helping verbs or as main verbs. On this page we talk about them as helping verbs. We use them in the following cases:

  • be
    • to make continuous tenses (He is watching TV.)
    • to make the passive (Small fish are eaten by big fish.)


  • have
    • to make perfect tenses (I have finished my homework.)


  • do
    • to make negatives (I do not like you.)
    • to ask questions (Do you want some coffee?)
    • to show emphasis (I do want you to pass your exam.)
    • to stand for a main verb in some constructions (He speaks faster than she does.)

Modal helping verbs (10 verbs)

We use modal helping verbs to "modify" the meaning of the main verb in some way. A modal helping verb expresses necessity or possibility, and changes the main verb in that sense. These are the modal verbs:

  • can, could
  • may, might
  • will, would,
  • shall, should
  • must
  • ought to

Here are examples using modal verbs:

  • I can't speak Chinese.
  • John may arrive late.
  • Would you like a cup of coffee?
  • You should see a doctor.
  • I really must go now.

Main Verbs >>

Semi-modal verbs (3 verbs)
The following verbs are often called "semi-modals" because they they are partly like modal helping verbs and partly like main verbs:
  • need
  • dare
  • used to

Enter supporting content here

María López Ponce Elementary School of Puerto Rico