The auxiliary verbs are be, have and do and the modal verbs. They can be used to make questions and negative statements. In addition:

  • be is used in the progressive and passive
  • have is used in the perfect
  • do is used to form questions and negative statements if no other auxiliary verb is present
  • They are winning the match. [be used in the progressive]
  • Have you finished your picture? [have used to make a question, and the perfect]
  • No, I don't know him. [do used to make a negative; no other auxiliary is present]
  • Will you come with me or not? [modal verb will used to make a question about the other person's willingness]

Auxiliary verbs 'help' the main verb they precede by adding further shades of meaning such as aspect or modality. E.g. They are leaving; She has finished; We should help him.

Verbs in persuasive language

In this lesson, students will analyse persuasive language in a charity appeal, and then write their own charity appeal. There is a particular focus on the way modal auxiliary verbs can be used to persuade.


  • Identify modal auxiliary verbs.
  • Analyse persuasive language.
  • Practise writing persuasively.

Lesson Plan

Activity 1

Verbs in persuasive language: Activity 1

Activity 1

Identify the modal verbs in this extract by clicking on them, then check your score at the end.

Verbs in persuasive language: Activity 3

Activity 3

Write your own charity appeal, using the source material below. It is a statement from a charity about their aims and methods. Make use of a range of persuasive devices, including modal verbs.

The "Live Not Exist" charity has been set up with the following key aims:

Main verb or auxiliary verb?

Is the highlighted verb a main verb or an auxiliary verb?

Verb phrases

The National Curriculum does not recognise verb phrases as such. Instead, the notion of clause is defined as "a special type of phrase whose head is a verb".

Here at Englicious we use the term 'verb phrase' in a slightly different way. For us verb phrases are phrases whose Head word is a verb, called the main verb (sometimes also called a lexical verb).

A verb phrase includes a single main verb, either:


Verbs have traditionally been described as ‘doing words’ or ‘action words’. This works well for some verbs, like sprint, chatter, eat. Here are some sentence examples with verbs which describe actions:

Verbs: Auxiliary verbs

A key distinction in the word class of verbs is between main verbs (also called lexical verbs) and auxiliary verbs:

Verbs: Modal verbs

Modal auxiliary verbs (or modals for short), as the name suggests, are a kind of auxiliary verb. They have most of the attributes of auxiliary verbs. They are a closed class that is identifiable as a short list, and they convey particular types of meaning.

Here is a table which lists the most important modal verbs (also called the core modals). It shows most of them in pairs as present and past tense forms, which makes them easier to remember.

Verbs: Nonfinite and finite

Verbs can be divided into finite and nonfinite forms. Finite verbs carry tense. So, past and present tense verb forms are finite. Nonfinite verbs do not carry tense, and do not show agreement with a Subject. Put differently, they are not 'limited' by tense or agreement.

The infinitive form of a verb is nonfinite. It is the form which follows to:

Auxiliary verbs

What is an Auxiliary verb?

In this short video, we explain look at a special set of verbs, called auxiliary verbs.


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