How do auxiliaries differ from other verbs?

June 12, 2012pdf

The auxiliary verbs form their interrogatives simply by inversion. That means we can form a question by putting the auxiliary verb before the subject.

  • Susie can knit.
  • Can Susie knit?
  • She has arrived.
  • Has she arrived?
  • He will come.
  • Will he come?

The auxiliaries can form their negatives by simply adding not.

  • She will not come.
  • He cannot sing.
  • You must not go.

Note that cannot is one word.

The auxiliaries combined with not have contracted forms.

  • Will not – won’t
  • Cannot – can’t
  • Have not – haven’t
  • Is not – isn’t

Auxiliaries are the only verbs that can be used in question tags.

  • She can sing, can’t she?
  • It’s raining, isn’t it?
  • He will come, won’t he?

Auxiliaries are the only verbs that can be used in short answers to questions.

  • Will he come? No, he won’t. (= No, he won’t come.)
  • Can you speak English? No, I can’t. (= No, I cannot speak English.)

Compare this with ordinary verbs.

  • Who wrote this letter? I did. (NOT I wrote.)
  • Who broke the window? John did. OR John. (NOT John broke.)

Auxiliaries can also be used in short answers to express agreement or disagreement.

  • ‘It is very hot.’ ‘Yes, it is.
  • ‘Susie has passed her test.’ ‘Yes, she has.
  • ‘He will help us.’ ‘No, he won’t.’

Auxiliaries are the only verbs that can be used in the constructions given below.

  • Julie didn’t turn up, and nor did Susie.
  • Julie didn’t turn up, and Susie didn’t either.
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