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English Auxiliaries are ESSENTIAL, NICE, and ORDERLY. Keep them simple and in good company! Part 2

English Auxiliaries are ESSENTIAL, NICE, and ORDERLY. Keep them simple and in good company! Part 2

In the previous post THE FIRST PART OF A SET OF THREE, we showed why English Auxiliaries are ESSENTIAL in ways that Spanish Auxiliaries are not.

Now we are going to:

    1. Showed why there is no future tense in English.
    2. FINALLY, in the third part: :
      • We’ll hint at possible ways of helping our students visually see how to remember “the way it goes in English.”
      • Show why focusing on just the verb phrase is not going to help them to communicate in English.

 2. Why English Auxiliary Verbs are NICE and ORDERLY 

They are N-I-C-E because they are used in:


When negation is expressed in the verb phrase, there NEEDS to be an auxiliary, which is normally in a clitic form (that means it contracts with the “not”). If the positive statement only contains a lexical verb, dummy “do” is required:

I usually go for a walk on Sunday mornings vs. I don’t usually go for walks in the morning.

I can drive vs. I can’t drive.

 I’m staying here vs. I’m not staying here.

I’ve done everything vs I haven’t done anything.


In questions which are not about the subject:

Where can I leave the shopping?

 Does she often do that”?


Who came late yesterday?

When the structure requires inversion, the appropriate Auxiliary is used:

Such disgusting behaviour did he display that we all left.

 Not only can she speak English, Spanish and German fluently, but she also has a working knowledge of Japanese.


A term grammarians use to indicate that auxiliaries are used in:

      • Interactions
      • to substitute the lexical verb
      • to substitute part of the clause

And all this is because:

          • The meaning is clear from the co-text or the context:

‘I usually do yoga every morning”  =  – Suelo hacer yoga todas las mañanas.

Do you? I never do…’  =                      – Ah, ¿sí? Yo no.


 Cathay Pacific began giving away free return flights and so did all the rest = Cathay Pacific empezó a dar gratis vuelos de vuelta/de regreso y todas las demás compañías hicieron lo mismo.

          • We may also express time or modality nuances:

Although my friend feared the book might not make it through the customs, it did! = aunque mi amiga tenía miedo de/ temía que el libro no consiguiera/lograra/pudiera pasar la aduana, sí que lo hizo/sí que lo logró.

Or this other one from D. Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. HarperCollinsPublishers Fourth Estate edition 2013. Page 408:

‘[…] But I don’t want to know about your life —shouldn’t approve of it anyway, I suppose.’

‘No, I don’t think you would.’

– Pero no quiero saber nada de tu vida/no quiero que me cuentes nada de tu vida – imagino que, de todas formas, no lo aprobaría/no me parecería bien lo que me cuentas.

– No, yo tampoco lo creo/creo que lo hicieras.



Admittedly, only the dummy is “visible” when we wish to emphasise something in the verb phrase:

I do know what you mean = sé/entiendo lo que quieres decir

He does make a real fuss over nothing much = realmente/sí que arma mucho jaleo por nada.

In all the other cases where there is an auxiliary in the verb phrase, emphasis is marked by stressing the auxiliary -or the first auxiliary in the verb phrase if there are several:

“you can’t be serious!” = “¡no puedes hablar en serio!/ ¡no hablas en serio!”

Not only do Auxiliaries help the Lexical Verb express nuances regarding time and modality, they also play a significant role in the English verb phrase, and are essential in interactions

They are ORDERLY because they follow strict rules of exclusion and position:

Exclusive Dummy

If there is a “dummy” auxiliary, all the others are excluded: If we say:

 “He doesn’t usually do anything at all on Sundays” = Normalmente los domingos no hace absolutamente nada.

 “Did your sister-in-law send you the info about the courses?” = ¿Te ha mandado tu cuñada la información sobre los cursos?

We cannot use any other auxiliary verb in those examples: just the dummy.

Modals first, and mutually exclusive

If there’s a modal, it always comes first and always followed by a bare infinitive. This may be:

    • the lexical verb:

You mustn’t answer him back, whatever he says =diga lo que diga, no debes replicarle/contestarle/contradecirle.

I can’t drive = no sé conducir

    • the auxiliary after the Modal:

They can’t be still sleeping= no pueden estar durmiendo todavía/no es posible (es imposible) que sigan todavía durmiendo

 She can’t have already finished= No puede haber terminado ya/ No es posible (es imposible) que haya terminado ya.

Consequently, since Modals do not have non-finite forms (Infinitive/Gerund-Participle/Past Participle), they are mutually exclusive:

“You must know how to drive, surely!” ** NOT “You must can drive, surely

“No, I can’t. I never learnt.”

Being always the first, the Modal marks the NICE properties:

It’s middayThey can’t be still sleeping! = es mediodía… ¡no pueden estar aún durmiendo/durmiendo todavía!

Perfective second

If there is a modal and the perfective auxiliary, first the modal, then the perfective, ALWAYS in bare infinitive:

They must have finished by now = Ya tienen que haber terminado/ Seguro que ya han terminado.

Progressive third

If there is a modal and the perfective and progressive auxiliary, first the modal, then the perfective, ALWAYS in bare infinitive, then the progressive in past participle:

For all I know, they might have been calling for help =

No sé, pero a lo mejor/tal vez/ quizá estuvieron pidiendo ayuda.

Clearly English Auxiliaries are N-I-C-E and ORDERLY, while Spanish Auxiliaries are… a totally different kettle of fish.

Let’s keep them simple and in good company

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