You do do that rather well! Understanding auxiliary verbs in English

Sometimes in English, you will see the same verb used twice in a sentence. For example, this can happen with the verb ‘do’:

  • They do do a lot of shopping

  • They do do good lunches here

  • They do do that very well

But you wouldn’t respond to any of these statements by saying “do do they”? You would simply say “do they”!


So what’s going on here?


Well, we have a main verb, as well as an auxiliary (or helping) verb being used, one after the other.


The first ‘do’ is the auxiliary, or helping verb. It helps us to understand when, in time, the action is taking place. If we replace this with the past tense ‘did’, you can see the role that this auxiliary verb plays more clearly:


  • They did do a lot of shopping

  • They did do good lunches here

  • They did do that very well

We could also replace it with a future tense verb ‘will’, to illustrate the point:


  • They will do a lot of shopping

  • They will do good lunches here

  • They will do that very well

The auxiliary verb is optional because the sentences would still make sense without it:


  • They do a lot of shopping

  • They do good lunches here

  • They do that very well

But using an auxiliary verb helps to add emphasis to our sentences.


The second use of the verb ‘do’ is the main verb ‘to do’, in this case, represents ‘to shop’, ‘to make lunch’ or ‘to do well’.


What other examples of auxiliary verbs can you think of?


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