IELTS Basic Grammar - Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary, or helping verbs, are used before infinitives to add a different meaning. For example, you use auxiliary verbs to say:

  »  that someone is able to do something,
  »  that someone is allowed to do something, or
  »  that someone has to do something.

The helping verbs are can, could, would, should, ought to, will, shall, may, might and must.

can and could
Use can and could to say that someone is able to do something.

" She can draw really good pictures."
" Philip can run faster than Matt."
" Can you ride a bike?"
" Can you help me with my homework? "

You may also use can and could to say that someone is allowed to do something.

" My mom says you can come to our house for dinner."
" Dad says I can’t walk to school on my own."
" You can’t go in there without a ticket."
" Mom said I could have ice cream after my dinner."

Can and could are also used for asking for information or help, for offering something, and for suggesting something.

" Can you tell me if this train goes to Topeka?"
" Could you show me where the accident happened?"
" Could you open that window, please?"
" You can borrow my pen, if you like. "

will and would
Use will and would when you are asking someone to do something.

" Will you please stop making that noise?"
" Would you pass me that book, please?"
" Please, will you close the door?"

You can also use will and would to offer something or to suggest something.

" Will I hold this end of the rope?"
" Will I carry the bag for you?"
" Would you like another drink?"
" Which cake would you like? "

shall and should
You can use shall and should to ask for advice, offer something and suggest something.

" Should I bring waterproof clothes?"
" Shall I go by car, or will it be better to walk?"
" Should I phone the police?"
" Shall I help you with that heavy bag? "

ought to
You use 'ought to' to make strong suggestions and talk about someone’s duty.

" You look tired. You ought to go to bed early tonight."
" I ought to get more physical exercise."
" We ought to lock the door when we leave home."
" You ought to turn off the computer when you’re not using it."
" You ought to know how to spell your own name."
" The teacher ought to make his classes more interesting."

Use 'must' to talk about things that you have to do.

" I must mail this letter today."
" You must speak louder. I can’t hear you."
" Children must not play with matches."
" Go to bed now. Oh, must I? "

[  Must keeps the same form in the past tense. The contraction of must not is mustn’t.  ]

may and might
Use 'may' to ask if you are allowed to do something and to tell someone that they are allowed to do something.

“ May I go out to play now?” “Yes, you may.”
" May I borrow your pen? "
" Please, may I see your ticket?"
" John may leave now, but Sally may not."

Use 'may' and 'might to talk about things that are possible or likely.

" Take an umbrella. It might rain."
" I may not have time to go swimming tonight."
" We might go to the party later."
" If you’re not careful, you may hurt yourself. "

Verb Phrases
A verb phrase consists of a verb and a preposition such as after, into and over. The proposition gives the verb a special meaning.

Here are some sentences that contain phrasal verbs. Read the meanings in parentheses.

  » Who looks after (= takes care of) the baby when your parents are at work?
  » Mike has blond hair and blue eyes. He takes after (= looks like) his mother.
  » Dad bumped into (= met by chance) an old friend at the station.
  » My sister is getting into (= is starting to be interested in) pop music.
  » Is your mom getting over (= recovering from) her illness?
  » Some health inspectors came to look over (= inspect) the factory.
  » We hoped that the thieves wouldn’t get away with (= escape punishment for) their crime.
  » I’m going to the store because we’ve run out of rice (= used all our rice).


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