We divide verbs into two broad classifications:
1. Helping Verbs (Auxiliary Verbs)
Imagine that a stranger walks into your room and says:
- I can.
- People must.
- The Earth will.
Do you understand anything? Has this person communicated anything to
you? Probably not! That's because these verbs are helping verbs
and have no meaning on their own. They are necessary for the grammatical
structure of the sentence, but they do not tell us very much alone. We
usually use helping verbs with main verbs. They "help" the main verb.
(The sentences in the above examples are therefore incomplete. They need
at least a main verb to complete them.) There are only about 15 helping
2. Main Verbs
Now imagine that the same stranger walks into your room and says:
- I teach.
- People eat.
- The Earth rotates.
Do you understand something? Has this person communicated something
to you? Probably yes! Not a lot, but something. That's because these
verbs are main verbs and have meaning on their own. They tell us
something. Of course, there are thousands of main verbs.
In the following table we see example sentences with helping verbs
and main verbs. Notice that all of these sentences have a main verb.
Only some of them have a helping verb.
Helping verbs and main verbs can be further sub-divided, as we shall
see on the following pages.