Best Approaches to Teaching and Learning Primary Auxiliaries

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An auxiliary verb is synonymous with a helping verb. It is a type of verb which cannot stand alone unless it depends on lexical verb(s) for meaning.

Explain the concept of auxiliary verbs.

Auxiliary verbs (especially verbs BE and verb Have cannot stand alone to convey meaning in the sentences unless they are used with lexical verbs. Look at the illustration below.

In the sentences ‘He is playing football’ and ‘They have gone there, the auxiliary verbs ‘is’ and ‘have’ cannot convey meaning unless ‘is’ is used with lexical verb playing and ‘have’ is used with the lexical verb ‘gone’.

In some cases, the auxiliary verbs ‘is’, ‘was’, ‘are’, and ‘were’ can stand alone in the sentences, but they cannot convey meaning themselves. Look at the illustration below.

‘Was’ in the sentence ‘Michael was a boy is an auxiliary verb functioning as the main verb in that sentence but was itself cannot convey meaning unless it is used in a sentence.

Classify auxiliary verbs.

According to the functions, there are three ways in which an auxiliary verb is classified: Primary and modal auxiliaries.

Evaluate.

  1. Illustrate auxiliary verbs.
  2. Name ways by which we can categorize auxiliary verbs.

Explain primary auxiliaries.

A primary auxiliary verb is also known as a non-modal auxiliary verb. It is assessed as a kind of verb consisting of ‘verbs + Be’, ‘verbs + Have’ and ‘verbs + Do.’

It can also function as tenses (present tense and past tense) and numbers (singulars and plurals) in the sentences. Let us consider the table below.

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Write out categories of primary auxiliaries.

Present tense Past tense Singular form plural Plural forms
Am/Is

Are

Have/Has

Do/Does

Was

Were

Had

Did

Am/Is

Has

Was

Had

Does/Did

Are

Have

Were

Had

Do/Did

Describe the verb ‘Be’.

The forms  of verb be include is, am, are,, was and were. The auxiliary ‘is/am’ is the present tense of the auxiliary ‘was’. The auxiliary ‘are’ is the present tense of the auxiliary ‘were’.

Furthermore, the auxiliary ‘am/is’ is the singular form of the auxiliary ‘are’ and the auxiliary ‘are’ is the plural form of the auxiliary ‘am/is’. The auxiliary ‘was’ is the singular form of the auxiliary ‘were’ and the auxiliary ‘were’ is the plural form of ‘was’.

Describe verb ‘Have’.

The forms of verb have consist of have, has and had. The auxiliary ‘have/has’ is the present tense of the auxiliary ‘had’, and the auxiliary ‘had’ is the past tense of the auxiliary ‘have/has’.

Also, the auxiliary ‘have’ is the plural form of the auxiliary ‘has’ while the auxiliary ‘has’ is the singular form of the auxiliary ‘have’. The auxiliary ‘had’ is both singular form and plural form of auxiliary ‘have/has’.

Describe verb ‘Do’.

The forms of verb do comprise do, does and did. The auxiliary ‘do/does’ is the present form of the auxiliary ‘did’, and the auxiliary ‘did’ is the past form of the auxiliary ‘do/does’.

The auxiliary ‘do’ is the plural form of the auxiliary ‘does’ while the auxiliary ‘does’ is the singular form of the auxiliary ‘do’.

But the auxiliary ‘did’ is the singular form and the plural form of the auxiliary ‘do/does’. Consider the examples in the table above.

Discuss features of primary auxiliaries.

There are different features to be examined under the verb be, the verb have and the verb do. Look at them one after the other.

The verb ‘Be’

  1. The verb be of the auxiliary verb helps another verb (main) in the sentences. Consider the examples below.

(i)         I am leaving for abroad tomorrow.

(ii)        The snake was hissing under the grass.

The verb be may be used as the passive form. For example:

(iii)       Slothful employees were queried.

The verb be can be followed by the auxiliary ‘being’ in the passive sentence. For example:

(iv)       The protagonist is being assassinated in the play.

The verb be, am, was, were and is being help the lexical verbs such as leaving, hissing, queried and assassinated in the sentences they are used.

  1. The verb be of the auxiliary verb can stand alone in simple sentences. Consider the examples below.

(i)         Bola was a girl.

(ii)        They were agile students.

In the examples above, the verb be, ‘was’ and ‘were’ stand alone without depending on other verb(s).

The verb ‘Have’

  1. The verb have of the auxiliary verb helps another verb (main) in the sentences. For example:

(i)         The chairman has earmarked N2bn for the project.

(ii)        Those politicians have milked almost N25n from the government purse.

The verb ‘have’ can be used with the auxiliary ‘been’ in the passive sentence. For example:

(iii)       One of the thieves had been ruthlessly dealt with.

In the sentences above, the verb ‘have’, ‘has’ and ‘had’ help the lexical verbs: ‘earmarked’, ‘milked’ and ‘dealt’ respectively.

  1. The verb have of the auxiliary verb can stand alone in simple sentences. For example:

(i)         I have enough evidence to oppose you.

(ii)        Hamzat has two jeep cars.

In the sentences above, the verb ‘have’, ‘has’ and ‘had’ stand alone without depending on another verbs.

‘Being’ vs ‘Been’

It has been discovered that auxiliaries ‘being’ and ‘been’ are misused. The auxiliary ‘being’ is used with the verb ‘be’. For example: are, is, am, was and were are used with ‘being’.

The auxiliary ‘been’ is used with the verb ‘have’. For example: have, has and had are used with ‘been’.

It is grammatically wrong to say:

(i)         The man is been killed.

(ii)        Those hooligans were been suspected.

(iii)       Tola has being slept.

(iv)       Those armed robbers have being prosecuted.

The verb ‘Do’

  1. The verb do is a lexical verb. In the auxiliary verb however, the verb do serves as a supporting verb for the purpose of emphasis. For example:

(i)         I do understand what you are saying.

(ii)        He did promise me a Peugeot car yesterday.

  1. The verbs do and did support the lexical verbs: ‘understand’ and ‘promise’ in the sentences above. Note that the verb that will follow the verb do must be a present tense not past tense. So, it is incorrect to say:

(i)         ‘I do understood …’

(ii)        ‘He did promised …’

Evaluate.

  1. How will you assess primary auxiliary verbs?
  2. Describe the following in terms of tenses and numbers:

(a)        The verb ‘Be’

(b)        The verb ‘Do.’

(c)        The verb ‘Have’

  1. Discuss the features of the auxiliaries with relevant illustrations.
  2. Correct the following wrong use of auxiliaries:

(a)        The thief here is been apprehended.

(v)        Sulaimon has being eaten.

  1. Use the verbs below in sentences.

(a) is                (b) was                        (c) were           (d) have

(e) has              (f) had             (g) are              (h) do/does

Author: Deola Adelakun

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