Helping Verbs List, Types, Usages with Examples

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the helping verbs list, delve into their various types, and provide clear usages with illustrative examples.

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Helping Verbs

Helping verbs, also known as auxiliary verbs, are a fundamental component of English grammar. They collaborate with main verbs to express nuances such as tense, mood, aspect, and voice. In this section, we will introduce you to the helping verbs list, types, and their diverse usages in English.

Definition of a Helping Verb

A helping verb, or auxiliary verb, is a verb that works in conjunction with the main verb in a sentence to express specific aspects of the action, time, or condition. Helping verbs provide additional information beyond what the main verb alone conveys.

The primary functions of helping verbs 

Expressing Tense: Helping verbs help indicate when an action occurred, whether in the present, past, or future. They enable the formation of various verb tenses, such as present tense (“is,” “am,” “are”), past tense (“was,” “were”), and future tense (“will,” “shall”).

Forming Questions: In interrogative sentences, helping verbs play a crucial role in sentence structure. They assist in inverting the subject and verb to create questions. For example, “He is running” becomes “Is he running?”

Creating Negatives: Helping verbs are essential in constructing negative sentences by adding the word “not” to the sentence. This alters the meaning to indicate the absence or negation of the action. For instance, “They have seen the movie” becomes “They have not seen the movie.”

Expressing Possibility and Obligation: Some helping verbs, known as modal verbs (“can,” “could,” “may,” “might,” “must,” “shall,” “should,” “will,” “would”), convey notions of possibility, necessity, permission, and obligation in sentences.

List of Helping Verbs

Before we dive into the types and usages of helping verbs, let’s begin with a comprehensive list of common helping verbs: Here is a list of 25 Helping verbs that are important for English Grammar.

Helping Verbs

Usages of Helping Verbs with Examples

The usage of helping verbs is important in English and they are shown below with proper examples for better understanding.

1. Expressing Tense:

Helping verbs assist in indicating when an action occurred, whether it’s in the present, past, or future.

  • I am writing a letter. (Present Tense)
  • She was reading a book. (Past Tense)
  • They will visit next week. (Future Tense)

2. Forming Questions:

Helping verbs play a crucial role in forming questions by inverting the subject and verb.

  • Are you coming to the party?
  • Is he studying for the exam?
  • Can they join us for lunch?

3. Creating Negatives:

Helping verbs are essential for constructing negative sentences by adding “not” to the sentence.

  • I have not finished my work.
  • She does not like spicy food.
  • They did not attend the concert.

4. Expressing Possibility and Obligation (Modal Verbs):

Modal helping verbs convey notions of possibility, necessity, permission, and obligation.

  • She must complete the assignment.
  • You can attend the meeting.
  • He should study for the test.

5. Creating Emphasis:

Helping verbs can add emphasis to a sentence.

  • I do love chocolate.
  • She did complete the project.
  • They will finish on time.

6. Indicating Continuation:

Helping verbs can indicate ongoing actions.

  • She is running a marathon.
  • They have been working all night.
  • We will be traveling for hours.

7. Expressing Ability:

Helping verbs can indicate a person’s ability to do something.

  • He can swim well.
  • She could manage the situation.
  • They may solve the puzzle.

8. Showing Desire:

Modal helping verbs can express desires.

  • I would like some tea.
  • She may want to join the club.
  • He will prefer the blue shirt.

9. Indicating Past Habits:

Helping verbs can denote past habits or recurring actions.

  • She used to visit the library daily.
  • They would always go jogging in the morning.
  • He could never resist chocolate.

10. Giving Permission:

Modal verbs can grant permission.

  • You may enter the room.
  • Students can leave after the test.
  • She could borrow the book.

11. Expressing Prohibition:

Modal verbs can convey prohibitions.

  • You must not smoke here.
  • She cannot enter without a ticket.
  • They should not touch the artwork.

12. Suggesting Politeness:

Modal verbs can be used to make requests or suggestions politely.

  • Could you please pass the salt?
  • Would you mind opening the window?
  • May I borrow your pen?

13. Offering Assistance:

Modal verbs can be used to offer help.

  • Can I help you with your bags?
  • Could I give you a ride?
  • Shall I call for a doctor?

14. Speculating or Guessing:

Modal verbs can be used to speculate or make educated guesses.

  • She may be at the library.
  • He might have forgotten the meeting.
  • They must be lost.

15. Expressing Certainty:

Modal verbs can express certainty or assurance.

  • She will complete the task on time.
  • They must know the answer.
  • It shall be a wonderful event.

16. Making Offers:

Modal verbs can be used to make offers or invitations.

  • Shall we go for a walk?
  • Would you like some coffee?
  • Can I get you something to eat?

17. Expressing Regret:

Modal verbs can convey regret or disappointment.

  • I should have studied harder.
  • She might have missed the opportunity.
  • They could have won the game.

18. Suggesting Advice:

Modal verbs can suggest advice or recommendations.

  • You should visit the doctor.
  • She ought to take a break.
  • He may want to consider other options.

19. Specifying Probability:

Modal verbs can specify the probability of an event.

  • It may rain later.
  • There could be a delay.
  • He might arrive early.

20. Offering Congratulations:

Modal verbs can be used to offer congratulations.

  • Can I congratulate you on your promotion?
  • I would like to offer my best wishes for your success.
  • May you have a wonderful journey ahead.

Types of Helping Verbs

Three primary types of helping verbs exist –  primary helping verbs, modal helping verbs, and semi-modal helping verbs. Let’s check each of these types of helping verbs with examples:

Primary Helping Verbs:

Primary helping verbs are the most basic helping verbs in English. They include “be,” “have,” and “do.” These verbs can function as helping verbs on their own or be used in combination with other verbs to create verb tenses.



Present Tense: I am writing a letter.

Past Tense: She was reading a book.

Future Tense: They will be arriving soon.

2. Have:


Present Perfect: He has finished his homework.

Past Perfect: They had already left when I arrived.

Future Perfect: By next year, I will have graduated.

3. Do:


Simple Present: He does his job.

Simple Past: She did her best in the exam.

Emphatic/Intensive: I do love chocolate!

Modal Helping Verbs: 

Modal helping verbs express possibility, necessity, ability, or permission. They are used alongside the base form of the main verb.

1. Can:


1. She can sing beautifully.

2. Can you help me to lift the load?

2. Could:


1. I could drive a car at the age of 10.

2. Could you pass me the salt?

3. Will:


1. He will arrive at 3 PM.

2. Will you join us for dinner?

4. Would:


She would like some tea, please.

Would you mind opening the door?

5. Shall:


1. Shall we go to the movies tonight?

2. I shall play football with you.

6. Should:


1. You should eat more vegetables.

2. Should I call you later?

7. May:


1. May I use your phone?

2. It may rain later.

8. Might:


1. He might come to the party.

2. You might allow him to go there.

9. Must:


1. You must finish your assignment.

2. Must I wear a tie for the interview?

Semi-Modal Helping Verbs: 

Semi-modal helping verbs, sometimes called semi-auxiliaries, share characteristics with both primary and modal helping verbs. They include “need,” “dare,” “used to,” and “ought to.”

1. Need:


1. She needs to complete the project by Friday.

2. Need I remind you to call your mother?

2. Dare:


1. He dares to challenge the status quo.

2. Dare she speak the truth?

3. Used to:


1. I used to play the piano when I was younger.

2. Did you use to smoke?

4. Ought to:


1. You ought to apologize for your behavior.

2. Ought we to attend the meeting?

Examples of Helping Verbs

Examples of Helping Verbs with tense, voice, mood, and modal auxiliary verbs are discussed in the following.

1. Examples of Helping Verbs with Tenses

They work in conjunction with the main verb to indicate when an action occurred or to convey the mood of the sentence. Let’s explore examples of helping verbs used in different tenses:

1. Present Tenses:

  • Simple Present:
    • She reads books.
    • They do their homework regularly.
  • Present Continuous:
    • He is eating lunch.
    • We are watching a movie.
  • Present Perfect:
    • I have completed my work.
    • She has seen that movie before.

2. Past Tenses:

  • Simple Past:
    • He wrote a letter.
    • They visited Paris last year.
  • Past Continuous:
    • She was studying all night.
    • We were doing the work when father came.
  • Past Perfect:
    • He had finished his dinner when the guests arrived.
    • By the time I reached home, mother left

3. Future Tenses:

  • Simple Future:
    • I will call you tomorrow.
    • They won’t be late for the meeting.
  • Future Continuous:
    • She will be working late tonight.
    • Will you still be studying when I get back?
  • Future Perfect:
    • By this time next year, we will have completed our project. 
    • She will have finished the chapter by the end of the day.

2. Examples of Helping Verbs Expressing Voice

Helping verbs play a significant role in expressing different voices in English, particularly the active voice and the passive voice. Voice indicates whether the subject of a sentence is performing the action (active voice) or receiving the action (passive voice). Helping verbs, along with the main verb, are key components in forming these voices. Let’s explore examples of helping verbs expressing voice:

1. Active Voice:

In sentences utilizing the active voice, the subject carries out the action described in the sentence. The helping verb used in active voice sentences is usually a form of “to be” (is, am, are, was, were) when forming continuous tenses or “to have” (has, have, had) when forming perfect tenses, along with the main verb.

  • Present Active Voice:
    • She is writing a letter. (Present Continuous)
    • They have completed their work. (Present Perfect)
  • Past Active Voice:
    • He wrote a letter. (Simple Past)
    • They had finished their assignment. (Past Perfect)
  • Future Active Voice:
    • I will call you tomorrow. (Simple Future)
    • She will have completed the project by Friday. (Future Perfect)

2. Passive Voice:

In passive-voice sentences, the subject receives the action. The helping verb used in passive voice sentences is a form of “to be” (is, am, are, was, were) along with the past participle of the main verb.

  • Present Passive Voice:
    • The letter is being written by her. (Present Continuous)
    • The work is being done by them. (Present Continuous)
  • Past Passive Voice:
    • The letter was written by him. (Simple Past)
    • The assignment had been finished by them. (Past Perfect)
  • Future Passive Voice:
    • The call will be made by me. (Simple Future)
    • The project will have been completed by Friday. (Future Perfect)

3. Change of Modal Verbs in Passive Voice:

In passive voice sentences, when modal verbs (such as can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, and would) are used, they are followed by “be” and the past participle form of the main verb.

  • Active Voice with Modal Verb:
    • He can write a report. (Active)
    • She may finish the task. (Active)
  • Passive Voice with Modal Verb:
    • A report can be written by him. (Passive)
    • The task may be finished by her. (Passive)

3. Examples of Helping Verbs Expressing Mood

Mood indicates the attitude or intention of the speaker or writer towards the action or state of being described. There are three primary moods in English: indicative mood, imperative mood, and subjunctive mood. Let’s explore examples of helping verbs expressing these moods:

1. Indicative Mood:

The indicative mood serves the purpose of presenting statements, questions, or opinions. It is the most common mood in English.

  • Statement in the Indicative Mood:
    • She is reading a book.
    • They have finished their project.
  • Question in the Indicative Mood:
    • Are you coming to the party?
    • Has he seen that movie before?

2. Imperative Mood:

The imperative mood is used to give commands, make requests, or offer invitations. In imperative sentences, the subject (usually “you”) is often implied and not explicitly stated.

  • Commands in the Imperative Mood:
    • Read the instructions carefully.
    • Pass the salt, please.
  • Requests in the Imperative Mood:
    • Help me with this task.
    • Don’t forget to call me later.

3. Subjunctive Mood:

The subjunctive mood is used to express hypothetical or unreal situations, wishes, suggestions, and statements contrary to fact. The structure of subjunctive sentences often involves specific helping verbs.

  • Wishes and Hypothetical Situations in the Subjunctive Mood:
    • I wish he were here. (Hypothetical situation; “were” is the subjunctive form of “to be.”)
    • If I were you, I’d reconsider. (Hypothetical situation)
  • Suggestions and Requests in the Subjunctive Mood:
    • It is important that she study for the exam. (Suggestion)
    • They requested that he come to the meeting. (Request)
  • Statements Contrary to Fact in the Subjunctive Mood:
    • If she had known the answer, she would have answered the question. (Contrary to fact)
    • I wish I hadn’t eaten so much cake. (Contrary to fact)

4. Examples of Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Modal auxiliary verbs, often simply called modal verbs or modals, are a category of helping verbs that express various shades of meaning in English. They are used to indicate possibility, necessity, ability, permission, obligation, and more. Here are examples of common modal auxiliary verbs and their usages:


  • Possibility/Ability: She can speak French fluently.
  • Permission: Can I go to the restroom?
  • Request: Can you please pass the salt?


  • Past Ability/Politeness: When I was young, I could run very fast.
  • Polite Request: Could you kindly help me with this?
  • Possibility in the Past: It could have been a misunderstanding.


  • Permission: May I have your phone number?
  • Possibility: It may rain later in the evening.
  • Probability: He may be at the library.


  • Slight Possibility/Politeness: I might come to the party if I finish my work.
  • Suggestion: You might want to consider that option.
  • Probability in the Past: She might have forgotten about the meeting.


  • Necessity/Obligation: You must complete your assignment by tomorrow.
  • Strong Deduction: He must be the new manager.
  • Prohibition: You must not use a mobile phone near the petrol pump.


  • Advice/Recommendation: You should exercise regularly for better health.
  • Expectation: They should arrive at 3 PM.
  • Polite Request/Suggestion: Should I help you with your luggage?

Ought to:

  • Moral Obligation: You ought to help those in need.
  • Expectation: They ought to finish the project this week.


  • Future Tense/Proposal: We shall meet tomorrow.
  • Suggestion: Shall we go for a walk?
  • Offer: Shall I help you with your bags?


  • Future Tense/Prediction: It will rain tomorrow.
  • Willingness: I will do it for you.
  • Request: Will you please pass me the salt?


  • Polite Request: Would you like some tea?
  • Past Habits: When I was a child, I would play in the park every day.
  • Hypothetical Situations: If I were you, I would apply for that job.

Used to:

  • Past Habit/Action No Longer True: I used to live in New York.
  • Past States or Situations: The old house used to be haunted.

Helping Verb vs. Linking Verb

Helping verbs and linking verbs are both essential components of English grammar, but they serve distinct functions in sentences. Let’s explore the differences between helping verbs and linking verbs:

Helping Verbs:

  • Helping verbs, also known as auxiliary verbs, assist the main verb in a sentence by adding information about tense, mood, aspect, or voice. They do not convey the main action or state of being but provide context for it.
  • Common helping verbs include “be” (am, is, are, was, were, being, been), “have” (has, have, had), and “do” (does, do, did), as well as modal verbs like “can,” “will,” “shall,” “must,” and others.
  • Helping verbs are used in verb phrases to create various verb tenses, such as past, present, and future, and to express possibilities, necessity, permission, and more.
  • Example sentences with helping verbs:
    • She is reading a book. (Present continuous tense)
    • They will have finished the project by Friday. (Future perfect tense)
    • You should call your parents. (Expressing advice using the modal verb “should”)

Linking Verbs:

  • Linking verbs, also known as copular verbs, connect the subject of a sentence with a subject complement, which can be a noun, pronoun, adjective, or phrase. They do not show action but establish a relationship between the subject and the complement.
  • The most common linking verb is “to be” (am, is, are, was, were, being, been), but other verbs like “become,” “seem,” “appear,” “feel,” “look,” “sound,” “taste,” and “smell” can also function as linking verbs in specific contexts.
  • Linking verbs are used to describe the state or condition of the subject, providing additional information about it.
  • Example sentences with linking verbs:
    • She is a doctor. (Connecting the subject “She” with the complement “a doctor,” describing her profession)
    • The cake smells delicious. (Connecting the subject “The cake” with the complement “delicious,” describing its aroma)
    • The room feels cold. (Connecting the subject “The room” with the complement “cold,” describing its temperature)

In summary, the key distinction between helping verbs and linking verbs lies in their functions within a sentence. Helping verbs assist the main verb in expressing tense, mood, and other grammatical elements, while linking verbs connect the subject to a subject complement, describing the subject’s state or condition. Understanding these roles is essential for constructing grammatically correct and meaningful sentences in English.

Helping Verb vs. Action Verb

Helping verbs and action verbs are two different types of verbs in the English language, and they serve distinct roles in sentences. Let’s explore the differences between helping verbs and action verbs:

Action Verbs:

Definition: Action verbs, also known as dynamic verbs, represent physical or mental actions performed by the subject of a sentence. They elucidate the actions or experiences of the subject.


  • She ran a marathon. (Physical action)
  • He thinks deeply about the problem. (Mental action)
  • They laughed at the funny joke. (Physical action)


  • Action verbs can stand alone in a sentence and convey a clear action performed by the subject.
  • They can be in various tenses (e.g., past, present, future) to indicate when the action occurred.

Role in Sentences:

  • Action verbs are the central components of sentences, carrying the primary meaning of the action or state of being.

Helping Verbs (Auxiliary Verbs):

Definition: Helping verbs, also called auxiliary verbs, work in conjunction with main verbs to provide additional information about the action or state of being in a sentence. They do not convey the main action but instead assist in forming verb tenses, moods, and voices.


  • She is running a marathon. (The helping verb “is” indicates the present continuous tense.)
  • They have laughed at the funny joke. (The helping verb “have” forms the present perfect tense.)


  • Helping verbs cannot stand alone as the main verb in a sentence and require a main verb to complete the sentence.
  • They play a supportive role in shaping the structure and meaning of a sentence.

Role in Sentences:

  • Helping verbs serve to convey nuances of time, mood, and voice, such as indicating when an action occurred (tense), expressing possibility or necessity (mood), and showing whether the action is performed by or directed at the subject (voice).

Examples of Sentences with Action and Helping Verbs:

Action Verb Sentence:

  • He plays the guitar beautifully. (The action verb “plays” describes the action he is performing.)

Helping Verb Sentence:

  • She has been studying all night. (The helping verbs “has been” assist in forming the present perfect continuous tense, indicating an ongoing action.)

Combination of Action and Helping Verbs:

They are building a new house. (The helping verb “are” indicates the present tense, while the action verb “building” describes the ongoing action.)


Q: What are helping verbs? 

A: Helping verbs, also known as auxiliary verbs, assist main verbs in expressing tense, forming questions, and creating negatives in sentences.

Q: How many helping verbs are there in English? 

A: There are 24 helping verbs in English, including “am,” “is,” “are,” “have,” “has,” “had,” and more.

Q: Can helping verbs change the meaning of a sentence? 

A: Yes, helping verbs play a significant role in conveying different tenses and nuances in a sentence, thereby altering its meaning.

Q: Is it necessary to use helping verbs in English sentences? 

A: Yes, helping verbs are essential for proper sentence construction and conveying accurate meaning.

Q: Are modal verbs considered helping verbs? 

A: Yes, modal verbs like “can,” “could,” “may,” “might,” “must,” “shall,” “should,” “will,” and “would” are a subset of helping verbs.

Q: How can I practice using helping verbs? 

A: You can practice using helping verbs by creating sentences, filling in blanks, and rewriting sentences in different forms.