Auxiliaries - Some notes on usage


Auxiliaries are used for a number of different functions:

  1. To form questions and inverted forms:
    • eg. Do you realise… Have you seen… Are you coming… Only now do they know…
  2. To form negatives:
    • eg. I didn't realise… I haven't seen… I wasn't coming…
  3. To give short answers:
    • eg. Yes, I do. No, I haven't. No, I'm not.
  4. In question tags:

  5. Type One (expecting a 'yes' answer)
      eg. You realise that, don't you? You've seen it, haven't you?
    Type Two (expecting a 'no' answer)
      eg. You're not coming, are you? You didn't see them, did you?
    Type Three (expressing surprise and requesting confirmation)
      eg. So you're actually coming, are you? You realise that, do you?
  6. To avoid repetition:
    • eg. I didn't realise, and neither did she. You have seen it, just as I have.
      (Remember to invert auxiliary and noun after words such as neither, so, rarely, etc.)
  7. To add emphasis (only with positive 'do'/'did' forms):
    • eg. I do realise. I did see it.


Specific Problem Areas for Short Answers, Question Tags, etc.

This/that/these/those: the pronouns 'it' and 'they' are used:

    eg. That's your book, isn't it? Are these yours? Yes, they are.

Everything/anything/nothing/something: the pronoun 'it' is used:

    eg. Everything's all right, isn't it? Nothing has disappeared, has it?

Everybody/everyone/anyone/nobody/someone/somebody/etc.: the pronoun 'they' is used:

    eg. Everyone's here, aren't they? Is no one else coming? Yes, they are.

Nobody/no one/nothing/nowhere: take an affirmative tag:

    eg. Nobody called, did they? Nothing has happened, has it?

I am: usually takes the tag 'aren't I?' (although 'am I not?' is also heard in formal contexts):

    eg. I'm expected to call them, aren't I?

Let's: takes the tag 'shall we?':

    eg. Let's drive over and visit them, shall we?

Requests with will/can/could/etc.: are often simply answered with 'of course':

    eg. Could you show me the way? Yes, of course.

Need / must: 'needn't' is the usual negative short answers to questions with 'must', and 'must is the typical affirmative short anwer to questions with 'need':

    eg. Must I get there at 9 o'clock on the dot? No, you needn't.
    eg. Do I need to be there at 9 o'clock sharp? Yes, you must.

Contradictory short answers: usually for unknown past events (avoiding repetition):

    eg. "You really ought to visit the castle, it's fascinating." - "But I have!"

Have/have got: with 'have' the auxiliary 'do' is used, but when 'got' is used, 'have' becomes the auxiliary:

    eg. You have a new jacket on, don't you? You've got a new jacket on, haven't you?


© Nigel J. Ross, 2003




English Lang.

Art Insights