Verbs that add functional or grammatical meaning to a clause are auxiliary verbs. Auxiliary verbs express tense, aspect, modality, voice and emphasis. Auxiliary verbs accompany a main verb. The main verb expresses the content of the clause and the auxiliary verb adds additional meaning to the main verb. An example is a sentence is I have finished my lunch. the main verb is finished, and the helping verb have helps to express the perfect aspect. A sentence can have two helping verbs,
Modal Verbs are a type of verb that indicates modality (an expression of intention). Modal verbs include:
Modal verbs accompany the base, infinitive form of another verb.
The most common modal verbs are:
- ought to
- had better
- have to
Modal verbs are auxiliary (helping) verbs, that help the main verb.
I must go to sleep by 9 pm
Janet will go to Japan
You can learn anything
Auxiliary verbs denoting tense
There are sixteen tenses in the English language. Refer to this article for a complete list of English language tenses.
- Progressive aspect – he is sleeping
- Perfect aspect – they have understood
- Future tense – The moon will rise tonight
- Future in the past tense – We would never do that again after what happened in 2000
A linking verb describes the subject by connecting it to a predicate adjective or predicate noun.
- Roses are red
- The man felt ill
- The chicken tasted awful
The subject of the sentence changes. In other words, the person or thing that undergoes some action (verb) changes. for example. The tree was pulled down. The subject is the tree, the main verb is pulled, the object is not identified, in other words, we do not know who or what pulled the tree down. With an active voice, the object (the person or thing acting on the subject) is identified, for example. Someone pulled the tree down.
A passive voice weakens a sentence and can be confusing.
Deontic modality indicates how the world should be according to certain norms, expectations, and desires.
- I shall help you
- You’ve got to taste this curry
- If only I were rich
Epistemic modality deals with a speaker’s evaluation, judgment, or degree of confidence about a proposition. In other words, epistemic modality refers to the way speakers communicate their doubts, certainties, and guesses.
- He may be a good chess player
- I doubt that it rained yesterday
- I heard that it rained yesterday
Most clauses contain at least one main verb and can contain, zero, one or multiple auxiliary verbs. From the point of view of predicates, each of the main verbs constitutes the core of the predicate, and the auxiliary verbs contribute meaning to the main predicate. Refer to English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy for more complete studies on helping verbs.
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