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Helping Verb

Term Definition
Helping Verb

Helping verbs are verbs that, as their name suggests, help the main verb in a sentence by extending the meaning of the verb. They add detail to how time is conveyed in a sentence. As a result, helping verbs are used to create the most complicated verb tenses in English: the progressive and the perfect aspects.

Helping verbs supplement main action

Essentially, a helping verb is a word that "helps" a given main verb adjust and expand its meaning within the context of various tenses and grammatical constructions. A few of the most common helping verbs in English are: be, have, and will (and their various forms). 

The role of the helping verb is perhaps especially evident in progressive and perfect tense constructions. For example, you "are reading" this sentence; and now you "have read" this sentence. Both are and have are helping verbs in this context. Read more about verbs/tenses and how they may apply to helpng verbs.

Examples of the helping verb used in a sentence

Here is an example of the helping verb being used correctly within a sentence. 

"Last night, they were heading out the door when the man realized that he had no idea where his car keys were."

In this sentence, the "were" before the main verb "heading" is in fact a helping verb. 

Now, here is an example of the incorrect use of the helping verb. 

"As of tomorrow morning, he will have being in this world for a total of twenty-nine years; that is, it would be his birthday."

In this sentence, "will have being" should be "will have been", and "would be" should be "will be". The helping verb constructions as they stand are incorrect and awkward. 

For your reference, here are a couple rules you can follow in order to make sure that you are using the helping verb in a proper way. 

  1. The helping verb is essential in the English language for changing the tenses of main verbs. In particular, the helping verbs be, have, and do are crucial for constructing several different forms of the past, present, and future tenses. This is just the way the English works; we just have to know the rules and follow them. 
  2. When you're using a helping verb, you need to make sure that you are picking the right ones for the forms you want to express. This is easy enough to do, though, once you've developed a basic working knowledge of the various constructions of tense. For example, the future perfect always uses "will have been", while the present progressive uses "is". The same is true with the other tenses as well. 

Additional rules and styles

In truth, there is little more to be said about the helping verb than the fact that it fulfills a crucial function in the English language, due to the way that verb tenses are modified within this language. Without the helping verb, it would be impossible to construct several past and present tense forms, as well as literally all of the future tense forms. Given the way that verbs change in English, the helping verb is formally and structurally crucial for such kinds of expression.  

In other languages (and especially the Romance languages), the helping verb may not be quite as important for the expression of tense. This is because in those languages, the main verbs themselves are more malleable: they change in their spellings or suffixes in order to express the tense that they are supposed to be in. In contrast, English verbs remain remarkably consistent, with tense largely being a function of the way in these main verbs relate themselves with a helping verb and/or other constructions within a given sentence. 

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Synonyms: helping-verb

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