Lesson Three

helping verbs

Advice from your teacher: Take notes  write in your notebook

Helping verbs are used before main verbs when making questions, negatives, and when changing the mode of a verb.

There are twenty-three helping verbs that students should learn when they study English. These helping verbs are grouped within four main categories:

The verb "be" – be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being

The verb "do" – do, does, did,

The verb "have" – have, has, had

modal verbs – can, could, will, would, may, might, must, shall, should


Use the verb "be" as a helping verb when forming continuous tenses and the passive voice:

the present continuous tense:

  • She is studying English. (main verb: study)
  • We are going for a walk. (main verb: go)

the past continuous tense:

  • Who were you talking to? (main verb: talk)
  • Sharon was sitting all by herself. (main verb: sit)

the passive voice:

  • She is helped by the teacher. (main verb: help)
  • Tests are being done on the water. (main verb: do)



Use the verb "do" as a helping verb when forming negatives and questions in the present tense and the past tense:

present tense negatives:

  • She doesn’t study English.
  • The children don’t have shoes.

present tense questions:

  • Does Maria study French?
  • Where do they like to eat?

past tense negatives:

  • He didn’t eat his breakfast.
  • The project did not take long to complete.

past tense questions:

  • What did you do with my shoes?
  • Did the bus leave already?

Now try this exercise.  


Use the helping verb "have" when forming perfect tenses:

the present perfect tense:

  • I have finally learned how play those chords.
  • Kevin hasn’t eaten all of his breakfast yet.

the past perfect tense:

  • They had never seen such a large fish
  • It they‘d had more time, they would have remained.

with modal verbs that express the past:

  • You should have helped her.
  • That would have been great.

the present perfect continuous tense:

  • Those children shouldn’t have been playing in that area.
  • Vanessa might have been working late last night.


modal verbs

When a verb follows a modal verb, it’s in the simple form. Modal verbs change the meaning of the main verb.

  • You should read more. (recommendation)
  • They can read in English. (ability)
  • She might read her book. (possibility)
  • I must read the assignment. (necessity)
  • He will read the newspaper. (future)

The subject of modal verbs is also explained in Yellow Level Lesson Ten.


Next: Lesson Four