Auxiliary verb

An auxiliary verb (abbreviated aux) is a verb that adds functional or grammatical meaning to the clause in which it appears, such as to express tense, aspect, modality, voice, emphasis, etc. Auxiliary verbs usually accompany a main verb. The main verb provides the main semantic content of the clause.[1] An example is the verb have in the sentence I have finished my lunch. Here, the main verb is finish, and the auxiliary have helps to express the perfect aspect. Some sentences contain a chain of two or more auxiliary verbs. Auxiliary verbs are also called helping verbs, helper verbs, or (verbal) auxiliaries.

Basic examples

Below are some sentences that contain representative auxiliary verbs from English, Spanish, German, and French, with the auxiliary verb marked in bold:

a. Do you want tea? do is an auxiliary accompanying the main verb want, used here to form a question – see do-support.
b. He has given his all. has is an auxiliary used in expressing the perfect aspect of give.
c. He cogido tu lápiz. he is an auxiliary accompanying the main verb coger, used here to form a compound verb, the perfect present in Spanish.[2]
(I) have grabbed your pencil = 'I have taken your pencil.'
d. Das wurde mehrmals gesagt. wurde 'became' is an auxiliary used to build the passive voice in German.[3]
That became many times said = 'That was said many times.'
e. Sie ist nach Hause gegangen. ist 'is' is an auxiliary used with movement verbs to build the perfect tense/aspect in German.[4]
She is to home gone = 'She went home/She has gone home.'
f. J'ai vu le soleil. ai 'have' is an auxiliary used to build the perfect tense/aspect in French.[5]
I have seen the sun = 'I have seen the sun/I saw the sun.'
g. Nous sommes hébergés par un ami. sommes 'are' is an auxiliary used to build the passive voice in French.[6]
We are hosted by a friend.

These auxiliaries help express a question, show tense/aspect, or form passive voice. Auxiliaries like these typically appear with a full verb that carries the main semantic content of the clause.

Traits across languages

Auxiliary verbs typically help express grammatical tense, aspect, mood, and voice. They generally appear together with a main verb. The auxiliary is said to "help" the main verb. The auxiliary verbs of a language form a closed class, i.e., there is a fixed, relatively small number of them.[7] They are often among the most frequently occurring verbs in a language.

Widely acknowledged verbs that can serve as auxiliaries in English and many related languages are the equivalents of be to express passive voice, and have (and sometimes be) to express perfect aspect or past time reference.[8]

In some treatments, the copula be is classed as an auxiliary even though it does not "help" another verb, e.g.,

The bird is in the tree. is serves as a copula with a predicative expression not containing any other verb.

Definitions of auxiliary verbs are not always consistent across languages, or even among authors discussing the same language. Modal verbs may or may not be classified as auxiliaries, depending on the language. In the case of English, verbs are often identified as auxiliaries based on their grammatical behavior, as described below. In some cases, verbs that function similarly to auxiliaries, but are not considered full members of that class (perhaps because they carry some independent lexical information), are called semi-auxiliaries. In French, for example, verbs such as devoir (have to), pouvoir (be able to), aller (be going to), vouloir (want), faire (make), and laisser (let), when used together with the infinitive of another verb, can be called semi-auxiliaries.[9]

In English

The following sections consider auxiliary verbs in English. They list auxiliary verbs, then present the diagnostics that motivate this special class (subject-auxiliary inversion and negation with not). The modal verbs are included in this class, due to their behavior with respect to these diagnostics.

List of auxiliaries in English

A list of verbs that (can) function as auxiliaries in English is as follows:[10]

be (am, are, is, was, were, being, been), can, could, dare, do (does, did), have (has, had, having), may, might, must, need, ought, shall, should, will, would

The status of dare, need (not), and ought (to) is debatable[11] and the use of these verbs as auxiliaries can vary across dialects of English. If the negative forms can't, don't, won't, etc. are viewed as separate verbs (and not as contractions), then the number of auxiliaries increases. The verbs do and have can also function as full verbs or as light verbs, which can be a source of confusion about their status. The modal verbs (can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would, and dare, need and ought when included) form a subclass of auxiliary verbs. Modal verbs are defective insofar as they cannot be inflected, nor do they appear as gerunds, infinitives, or participles.

The following table summarizes the auxiliary verbs in standard English and the meaning contribution to the clauses in which they appear. Many auxiliary verbs are listed more than once in the table based upon discernible differences in use.

Auxiliary verb Meaning contribution Example
be1 copula (= linking verb) She is the boss.
be2 progressive aspect He is sleeping.
be3 passive voice They were seen.
can1 deontic modality I can swim.
can2 epistemic modality Such things can help.
could1 deontic modality I could swim.
could2 epistemic modality That could help.
dare deontic modality I dare not attempt it.
do1 do-support/emphasis You did not understand.
do2 question Do you like it?
have perfect aspect They have understood.
may1 deontic modality May I stay?
may2 epistemic modality That may take place.
might epistemic modality We might give it a try.
must1 deontic modality You must not mock me.
must2 epistemic modality It must have rained.
need deontic modality You need not water the grass.
ought deontic modality You ought to play well.
shall deontic modality You shall not pass.
should1 deontic modality You should listen.
should2 epistemic modality That should help.
will1 epistemic modality We will eat pie.
will2 future tense The sun will rise tomorrow at 6:03.
will3 habitual aspect He will make that mistake every time.
would1 epistemic modality Nothing would accomplish that.
would2 future-in-the-past tense After 1990, we would do that again.
would3 habitual aspect Back then we would always go there.

Deontic modality expresses an ability, necessity, or obligation that is associated with an agent subject. Epistemic modality expresses the speaker's assessment of reality or likelihood of reality. Distinguishing between the two types of modality can be difficult, since many sentences contain a modal verb that allows both interpretations.

Diagnostics for identifying auxiliary verbs in English

The verbs listed in the previous section can be classified as auxiliaries based upon two diagnostics: they allow subject–auxiliary inversion (the type of inversion used to form questions etc.) and (equivalently) they can take not as a postdependent (a dependent that follows its head). The following examples illustrate the extent to which subject–auxiliary inversion can occur with an auxiliary verb but not with a full verb:[12]

a. He was working today.
b. Was he working today? - Auxiliary verb was allows subject–auxiliary inversion.
a. He worked today.
b. *Worked he today? - Full verb worked does not allow subject–auxiliary inversion.
a. She can see it.
b. Can she see it? - Auxiliary verb can allows subject–auxiliary inversion.
a. She sees it.
b. *Sees she it? - Full verb sees does not allow subject–auxiliary inversion.

(The asterisk * is the means commonly used in linguistics to indicate that the example is grammatically unacceptable or that a particular construction has never been attested in use.) The following examples illustrate that the negation not can appear as a postdependent of a finite auxiliary verb, but not as a postdependent of a finite full verb:[13]

a. Sam would try that.
b. Sam would not try that. - The negation not appears as a postdependent of the finite auxiliary would.
a. Sam tried that.
b. *Sam tried not that. - The negation not cannot appear as a postdependent of the finite full verb tried.
a. Tom could help.
b. Tom could not help. - The negation not appears as a postdependent of the finite auxiliary could.
a. Tom helped.
b. *Tom helped not. - The negation not cannot appear as a postdependent of the finite full verb helped.

A third diagnostic that can be used for identifying auxiliary verbs is verb phrase ellipsis. Auxiliary verbs can introduce verb phrase ellipsis, but main verbs cannot. See the article on verb phrase ellipsis for examples.

These criteria lead to the copula be and non-copular use of be as an existential verb being considered an auxiliary (it undergoes inversion and takes postdependent not, e.g., Is she the boss?, She is not the boss, Is there a God?, There is a God). However, if one defines auxiliary verb as a verb that somehow "helps" another verb, then the copula be is not an auxiliary, because it appears without another verb. The literature on auxiliary verbs is somewhat inconsistent in this area.[14]

There are also some properties that some but not all auxiliary verbs have. Their presence can be used to conclude that the verb is an auxiliary, but their absence does not guarantee the converse. One such property is to have the same form in the present tense, also for the first and the third person singular. This in particular is typical for modal auxiliary verbs, such as will and must. (Examples: He will come tomorrow, she must do it at once, not he wills or she musts.)

Vs. light verbs

Some syntacticians distinguish between auxiliary verbs and light verbs.[15][16] The two are similar insofar as both verb types contribute mainly just functional information to the clauses in which they appear. Hence both do not qualify as separate predicates, but rather they form part of a predicate with another expression - usually with a full verb in the case of auxiliary verbs and usually with a noun in the case of light verbs.

In English, light verbs differ from auxiliary verbs in that they cannot undergo inversion and they cannot take not as a postdependent. The verbs have and do can function as auxiliary verbs or as light verbs (or as full verbs). When they are light verbs, they fail the inversion and negation diagnostics for auxiliaries, e.g.

Note that in some dialects (for example, the West and South West dialects of Hiberno-English), the inversion test may sound correct to native speakers.

a. They had a long meeting.
b. *Had they a long meeting? - Light verb had fails the inversion test.
c. *They had not a long meeting. - Light verb had fails the negation test.
a. She did a report on pandering politicians.
b. *Did she a report on pandering politicians? - Light verb did fails the inversion test.
c. *She did not a report on pandering politicians. - Light verb did fails the negation test.

(In some cases, though, have may undergo auxiliary-type inversion and negation even when it is not used as an auxiliary verb – see Subject–auxiliary inversion § Inversion with other types of verb.)

Sometimes the distinction between auxiliary verbs and light verbs is overlooked or confused. Certain verbs (e.g., used to, have to, etc.) may be judged as light verbs by some authors, but as auxiliaries by others.[17]

Multiple auxiliaries

Most clauses contain at least one main verb, and they can contain zero, one, two, three, or perhaps even more auxiliary verbs.[18] The following example contains three auxiliary verbs and one main verb:

The paper will have been scrutinized by Fred.

The auxiliary verbs are in bold and the main verb is underlined. Together these verbs form a verb catena (chain of verbs), i.e., they are linked together in the hierarchy of structure and thus form a single syntactic unit. The main verb scrutinized provides the semantic core of sentence meaning, whereby each of the auxiliary verbs contributes some functional meaning. A single finite clause can contain more than three auxiliary verbs, e.g.

Fred may be being judged to have been deceived by the explanation.

Viewing this sentence as consisting of a single finite clause, there are five auxiliary verbs and two main verbs present. From the point of view of predicates, each of the main verbs constitutes the core of a predicate, and the auxiliary verbs contribute functional meaning to these predicates. These verb catenae are periphrastic forms of English, English being a relatively analytic language. Other languages, such as Latin, are synthetic, which means they tend to express functional meaning with affixes, not with auxiliary verbs.

The periphrastic verb combinations in the example just given are represented now using the dependency grammar tree of the sentence; the verb catena is in green:[19]

Auxiliary verbs tree 2'
Auxiliary verbs tree 2'

The particle to is included in the verb catena because its use is often required with certain infinitives. The hierarchy of functional categories is always the same. The verbs expressing modality appear immediately above the verbs expressing aspect, and the verbs expressing aspect appear immediately above the verbs expressing voice. The verb forms for each combination are as follows:

Functional meaning Verb combination Example
Modality finite modal verb + infinitive may be
Perfect aspect form of auxiliary verb have + perfect active participle have been
Progressive aspect form of auxiliary verb be + progressive active participle be being
Passive voice form of auxiliary verb be + passive participle been deceived

English allows clauses with both perfect and progressive aspect. When this occurs, perfect aspect is superior to progressive aspect, e.g.

Auxiliary verbs tree 3
Auxiliary verbs tree 3

See also


  1. ^ The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, defines an auxiliary verb as "a verb used to form the tenses, [grammatical mood/moods], [grammatical voice/voices], etc. of other verbs." OED Second Edition, 1989. Entry for auxiliary.
  2. ^ Concerning the use of coger as an auxiliary in Spanish, see for instance
  3. ^ Concerning the use of werden as an auxiliary in German, see for instance Engel (1994:114).
  4. ^ Concerning sein as an auxiliary in German used to form perfect tense/aspect, see Eroms (2000:138f.)
  5. ^ Concerning the selection of avoir or être as the auxiliary verb to form perfect tense/aspect in French, see Rowlett (2007:40f.).
  6. ^ Concerning être as the auxiliary used to build the passive voice in French, see Rowlett (2007:44f.).
  7. ^ Concerning auxiliaries forming a closed class, see Kroeger (2004:251).
  8. ^ That the equivalents of have and be are perhaps the most widely acknowledged auxiliaries across languages (related to English) can be verified by glancing at the literature on auxiliaries, e.g., Engel (1994:104ff.), Eroms (2000:137ff.), Rowlett (2007:24ff.).
  9. ^ Concerning the term semi-auxiliaries for French, see Warnant (1982:279).
  10. ^ For lists of the auxiliary verbs like the one produced here but with minor discrepancies, see for instance Radford (2004:324), Crystal (1997:35), and Jurafsky and Martin (2000:322).
  11. ^ For some discussion of the status of dare as a "marginal modal", see Fowler's Modern English Usage, p. 195f.
  12. ^ For examples of the inversion diagnostic used to identify auxiliaries, see for instance Radford (1997:50f., 494), Sag and Wasow (1999:308f.), and Kroeger (2004:253).
  13. ^ The negation diagnostic for identifying auxiliary verbs is employed for instance by Radford (1997:51), Adgar (2003:176f.), and Culicover (2009:177f.).
  14. ^ Jurafsky and Martin (2000:320) state clearly that copula be is an auxiliary verb. Bresnan (2001:18f.) produces and discusses examples of subject-auxiliary inversion using the copula. Tesnière (1959) repeatedly refers to the copula être in French as an auxiliary verb, and Eroms (2000:138f.) discusses the copula sein in German as a Hilfsverb 'helping verb'. Crystal (1997:35) lists be as an auxiliary verb without distinguishing between its various uses (e.g., as a copula or not). Other definitions are less clear; Radford (2004:324) suggests that copula be is not an auxiliary, but he does not address why it behaves like an auxiliary with respect to the criteria he employs (e.g., inversion) for identifying auxiliaries.
  15. ^ Concerning light verbs in English, see Allterton (2006:176).
  16. ^ Light verbs are called Funktionsverben 'function verbs' in German - see Engel (1994:105f.) and Eroms (2000:162ff.).
  17. ^ Jurafsky and Martin (2000:22), for instance, lists have as a modal auxiliary when it appears as have to and Fowler's Modern English Usage (1996:195) lists used to as a "marginal modal".
  18. ^ See Finch (2000:13) concerning the necessity that a given auxiliary verb should accompany a main verb.
  19. ^ Dependency trees like the ones here can be found, for instance, in Osborne and Groß (2012) Take note that other authors consider closed-class words to be the heads of open-class complements, for instance determiners heads of common nouns. These dependency trees represent the opinion of the authors and not of all Dependency Grammar authorities.


  • Allerton, D. 2006. Verbs and their Satellites. In Handbook of English Linguistics. Aarts 7 MacMahon (eds.). Blackwell.
  • Adger, D. 2003. Core syntax. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Bresnan, J. 2001. Lexical-Functional Syntax. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Culicover, P. 2009. Natural language syntax. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Crystal, D. 1997. A dictionary of linguistics and phonetics, 4th edition. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Engel, U. 1994. Syntax der deutschen Sprache, 3rd edition. Berlin: Erich Schmidt Verlag.
  • Eroms, H.-W. 2000. Syntax der deutschen Sprache. Berlin: de Gruyter.
  • Finch, G. 2000. Linguistic terms and concepts. New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • Fowler's Modern English Usage. 1996. Revised third edition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Jurafsky, M. and J. Martin. 2000. Speech and language processing. Dorling Kindersley (India): Pearson Education, Inc.
  • Kroeger, P. 2004. Analyzing syntax: A lexical-functional approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lewis, M. The English Verb 'An Exploration of Structure and Meaning'. Language Teaching Publications. ISBN 0-906717-40-X
  • Osborne, T. and T. Groß 2012. Constructions are catenae: Construction Grammar meets Dependency Grammar. Cognitive Linguistics 23, 1, 165-216.
  • Radford. A. 1997. Syntactic theory and the structure of English: A minimalist approach. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Radford, A. 2004. English syntax: An introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Rowlett, P. 2007. The syntax of French. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Sag, I. and T. Wasow. 1999. Syntactic theory: A formal introduction. Stanford, CA: CSLI Publications.
  • Tesnière, L. 1959. Éleménts de syntaxe structurale. Paris: Klincksieck.
  • Warnant, L. 1982. Structure syntaxique du français. Librairie Droz.

Do-support (or do-insertion), in English grammar, is the use of the auxiliary verb do, including its inflected forms does and did, to form negated clauses and questions as well as other constructions in which subject–auxiliary inversion is required.

The verb "do" can be used as an auxiliary even in simple declarative sentences, and it usually serves to add emphasis, as in "I did shut the fridge." However, in the negated and inverted clauses referred to above, it is used because the conventions of Modern English syntax permit these constructions only when an auxiliary is present. It is not idiomatic in Modern English to add the negating word not to a lexical verb with finite form; not can be added only to an auxiliary or copular verb. For example, the sentence I am not with the copula be is fully idiomatic, but I know not with a finite lexical verb, while grammatical, is archaic. If there is no other auxiliary present when negation is required, the auxiliary do is used to produce a form like I do not (don't) know. The same applies in clauses requiring inversion, including most questions: inversion must involve the subject and an auxiliary verb so it is not idiomatic to say Know you him?; today's English usually substitutes Do you know him?

Do-support is not used when there is already an auxiliary or copular verb present or with non-finite verb forms (infinitives and participles). It is sometimes used with subjunctive forms. Furthermore, the use of do as an auxiliary should be distinguished from the use of do as a normal lexical verb, as in They do their homework.

English auxiliaries and contractions

In English grammar, certain verb forms are classified as auxiliary verbs. Exact definitions of this term vary; an auxiliary verb is generally conceived as one with little semantic meaning of its own, which modifies the meaning of another verb with which it co-occurs. In English, verbs are often classed as auxiliaries on the basis of certain grammatical properties, particularly as regards their syntax – primarily whether they participate in subject–auxiliary inversion, and can be negated by the simple addition of not after them.

Certain auxiliaries have contracted forms, such as -'d and -'ll for had/would and will/shall. There are also many contractions formed from the negations of auxiliary verbs, ending in n't (a reduced form of not). These letter contractions can participate in inversion as a unit (as in Why haven't you done it?, where the uncontracted form would be Why have you not done it?), and thus in a certain sense can be regarded as auxiliary verbs in their own right.

For details about the verbs classed as modal auxiliaries, see English modal verbs.

English modal verbs

The modal verbs of English are a small class of auxiliary verbs used mostly to express modality (properties such as possibility, obligation, etc.). They can be distinguished from other verbs by their defectiveness (they do not have participle or infinitive forms) and by the fact that they do not take the ending -(e)s in the third-person singular.

The principal English modal verbs are can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will and would. Certain other verbs are sometimes, but not always, classed as modals; these include ought, had better, and (in certain uses) dare and need. Verbs which share only some of the characteristics of the principal modals are sometimes called "semimodals" or "pseudomodals".

French conjugation

French conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a French verb from its principal parts by inflection. French verbs are conventionally divided into three conjugations (conjugaisons) with the following grouping:

1st group: verbs ending in -er (except aller).

2nd group: verbs ending in -ir, with the gerund ending in -issant

3rd group: verbs ending in -re (with the exception of irregular verbs).

1st section: verbs ending in -ir, with the gerund ending in -ant

2nd section: verbs ending in -oir.

3rd section: verbs ending in -re

aller.The first two groups follow a regular conjugation, whereas the third group follows an irregular one. The third group is considered a closed-class conjugation form, meaning that most new verbs introduced to the French language are of the first group (téléviser, atomiser, radiographier), with the remaining ones being of the second group (alunir).

The verb aller is the only verb ending in -er belonging to the third group.

French verbs

French verbs are a part of speech in French grammar. Each verb lexeme has a collection of finite and non-finite forms in its conjugation scheme.

Finite forms depend on grammatical tense and person/number. There are eight simple tense–aspect–mood forms, categorized into the indicative, subjunctive and imperative moods, with the conditional mood sometimes viewed as an additional category. The eight simple forms can also be categorized into four tenses (future, present, past, and future-of-the-past), or into two aspects (perfective and imperfective).

The three non-finite moods are the infinitive, past participle, and present participle.

There are compound constructions that use more than one verb. These include one for each simple tense with the addition of avoir or être as an auxiliary verb. There is also a construction which is used to distinguish passive voice from active voice.

Future perfect

The future perfect is a verb form or construction used to describe an event that is expected or planned to happen before a time of reference in the future, such as will have finished in the English sentence "I will have finished by tomorrow." It is a grammatical combination of the future tense, or other marking of future time, and the perfect, a grammatical aspect that views an event as prior and completed.

Future tense

In grammar, a future tense (abbreviated FUT) is a verb form that generally marks the event described by the verb as not having happened yet, but expected to happen in the future. An example of a future tense form is the French aimera, meaning "will love", derived from the verb aimer ("love"). English does not have a future tense formed by verb inflection in this way, although it has a number of ways to express the future, particularly the construction with the auxiliary verb will or shall or is/am/are going to and grammarians differ in whether they describe such constructions as representing a future tense in English.

The "future" expressed by the future tense usually means the future relative to the moment of speaking, although in contexts where relative tense is used it may mean the future relative to some other point in time under consideration.

Georgian grammar

The Georgian language belongs to the Kartvelian family. Georgian grammar is remarkably different from European languages and has many distinct features, such as split ergativity and a polypersonal verb agreement system.

Georgian has its own alphabet. In this article, a transliteration with Latin letters will be used throughout.


Have or having may refer to:

the concept of ownership

any concept of possession; see Possession (disambiguation)

an English verb used:

to denote linguistic possession in a broad sense

as an auxiliary verb; see English auxiliaries and contractions

in constructions such as have something done; see English passive voice § Additional passive constructions

Having (album), a 2006 album by the band Trespassers William

Having (SQL), a clause in the SQL programming language

Having (inlet), Rügen island, German

Inversion (linguistics)

In linguistics, inversion is any of several grammatical constructions where two expressions switch their canonical order of appearance, that is, they invert. The most frequent type of inversion in English is subject–auxiliary inversion in which an auxiliary verb changes places with its subject; it often occurs in questions, such as Are you coming?, with the subject you is switched with the auxiliary are. In many other languages, especially those with a freer word order than English, inversion can take place with a variety of verbs (not just auxiliaries) and with other syntactic categories as well.

When a layered constituency-based analysis of sentence structure is used, inversion often results in the discontinuity of a constituent, but that would not be the case with a flatter dependency-based analysis. In that regard, inversion has consequences similar to those of shifting.


Modal may refer to:

Modal (textile), a textile made from spun cellulose fiber

Modal analysis, the study of the dynamic properties of structures under vibrational excitation

Modal bandwidth, in the discipline of telecommunications, refers to the signalling rate per distance unit

Modal haplotype, an ancestral haplotype derived from the DNA test results of a specific group of people

Modal jazz, jazz that uses musical modes rather than chord progressions as a harmonic framework

Modal logic, a type of formal logic that extends the standards of formal logic to include the elements of modality

Modal matrix, used in the diagonalization process involving eigenvalues and eigenvectors

Modal phenomena

Modal administration, used in Federal Agencies to describe sub-offices or "modes"

Modal transportation, used in transit to describe multiple modes of transit available such as bus, trolley, train, ferry

Modal score, used in testing and education for the most common score

Modal verb, a type of auxiliary verb that is used to indicate modality

Modal window, a child window that requires users to interact with it before they can return to operating the parent application

A trade name for Sulpiride, an atypical antipsychotic drug

Modal verb

A modal verb is a type of verb that is used to indicate modality – that is: likelihood, ability, permission, request, capacity, suggestions, order and obligation, and advice etc. They always take base form of verb with them. Examples include the English verbs can/could, may/might, must, will/would and shall/should/ought. In English and other Germanic languages, modal verbs are often distinguished as a class based on certain grammatical properties.

Passive voice

Passive voice is a grammatical voice common in many languages. In a clause with passive voice, the grammatical subject expresses the theme or patient of the main verb – that is, the person or thing that undergoes the action or has its state changed. This contrasts with active voice, in which the subject has the agent role. For example, in the passive sentence "The tree was pulled down", the subject (the tree) denotes the patient rather than the agent of the action. In contrast, the sentences "Someone pulled down the tree" and "The tree is down" are active sentences.

Typically, in passive clauses, what is usually expressed by the object (or sometimes another argument) of the verb is now expressed by the subject, while what is usually expressed by the subject is either deleted or is indicated by some adjunct of the clause. Thus, turning an active verb into a passive verb is a valence-decreasing process ("detransitivizing process"), because it turns transitive verbs into intransitive verbs. This is not always the case; for example in Japanese a passive-voice construction does not necessarily decrease valence.Many languages have both an active and a passive voice; this allows for greater flexibility in sentence construction, as either the semantic agent or patient may take the syntactic role of subject. The use of passive voice allows speakers to organize stretches of discourse by placing figures other than the agent in subject position. This may be done to foreground the patient, recipient, or other thematic role; it may also be useful when the semantic patient is the topic of on-going discussion. The passive voice may also be used to avoid specifying the agent of an action.

Passé composé

The passé composé (French pronunciation: ​[paˈse kɔ̃poˈze], compound past) is the most used past tense in the modern French language. It is used to express an action that has been finished completely or incompletely at the time of speech, or at some (possibly unknown) time in the past. The passé composé originally corresponded in function to the English present perfect, but is now used mainly as the equivalent of the simple past.

The passé composé is formed using an auxiliary verb and the past participle of a verb.

Perfect (grammar)

The perfect tense or aspect (abbreviated PERF or PRF) is a verb form that indicates that an action or circumstance occurred earlier than the time under consideration, often focusing attention on the resulting state rather than on the occurrence itself. An example of a perfect construction is I have made dinner: although this gives information about a prior action (my making the dinner), the focus is likely to be on the present consequences of that action (the fact that the dinner is now ready). The word perfect in this sense means "completed" (from Latin perfectum, which is the perfect passive participle of the verb perficere "to complete").

In traditional Latin and Ancient Greek grammar, the perfect tense is a particular, conjugated-verb form. Modern analyses view the perfect constructions of these languages as combining elements of grammatical tense (such as time reference) and grammatical aspect. The Greek perfect tense is contrasted with the aorist and the imperfect tenses and specifically refers to completed events with present consequences; its meaning is thus similar to that of the English construction, "have/has (done something)". The Latin perfect tense is contrasted only with the imperfect tense (used for past incomplete actions or states) and is thus used to mean both "have/has done something" and "did something" (the preterite use). Other related forms are the pluperfect, denoting an event prior to a past time of reference, and the future perfect, for an event prior to a future time of reference.

In the grammar of some modern languages, particularly of English, the perfect may be analyzed as an aspect that is independent of tense – the form that is traditionally just called the perfect ("I have done") is then called the present perfect, while the form traditionally called the pluperfect ("I had done") is called the past perfect. (There are also additional forms such as future perfect, conditional perfect, and so on.) The formation of the perfect in English, using forms of an auxiliary verb (have) together with the past participle of the main verb, is paralleled in a number of other modern European languages.

The perfect can be denoted by the glossing abbreviation PERF or PRF. It should not be confused with the perfective aspect, which refers to the viewing of an action as a single (but not necessarily prior) event. To avoid confusion with the perfective, the perfect is occasionally called the retrospective (RET).


The pluperfect (or plusquamperfect) is a type of verb form, generally treated as one of the tenses in certain languages, used to refer to an action at a time earlier than a time in the past already referred to. Examples in English are: "we had arrived"; "they had written".

The word derives from the Latin plus quam perfectum, "more than perfect". The word "perfect" in this sense means "completed"; it contrasts with the "imperfect", which denotes uncompleted actions or states.

In English grammar, the equivalent of the pluperfect (a form such as "had written") is now often called the past perfect, since it combines past tense with perfect aspect. (The same term is sometimes used in relation to the grammar of other languages.) English also has a past perfect progressive (or past perfect continuous) form: "had been writing".

Subject–auxiliary inversion

Subject–auxiliary inversion (also called subject–operator inversion) is a frequently occurring type of inversion in English, whereby a finite auxiliary verb – taken here to include finite forms of the copula be – appears to "invert" (change places) with the subject. The word order is therefore Aux-S (auxiliary–subject), which is the opposite of the canonical SV (subject–verb) order of declarative clauses in English. The most frequent use of subject–auxiliary inversion in English is in the formation of questions, although it also has other uses, including the formation of condition clauses, and in the syntax of sentences beginning with negative expressions (negative inversion).

In certain types of English sentences, inversion is also possible with verbs other than auxiliaries; these are described in the article on subject-verb inversion.

Voice (grammar)

In grammar, the voice of a verb describes the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object, etc.). When the subject is the agent or doer of the action, the verb is in the active voice. When the subject is the patient, target or undergoer of the action, the verb is said to be in the passive voice. Voice is sometimes called diathesis.For example, in the sentence:

The cat ate the mouse.the verb "ate" is in the active voice. However, in the sentence:

The mouse was eaten by the cat.the verbal phrase "was eaten" is passive.

In the sentence:

The hunter killed the bear.the verb "killed" is in the active voice, and the doer of the action is the "hunter".

A passive version of the sentence is:

The bear was killed by the hunter.where the verbal phrase "was killed" is followed by the word "by" and then by the doer "hunter".

In a transformation from an active-voice clause to an equivalent passive-voice construction, the subject and the direct object switch grammatical roles. The direct object gets promoted to subject, and the subject demoted to an (optional) adjunct. In the first example above, the mouse serves as the direct object in the active-voice version, but becomes the subject in the passive version. The subject of the active-voice version, the cat, becomes part of a prepositional phrase in the passive version of the sentence, and can be left out entirely.

Warndarang language

Warndarang (also spelled Wandarang, Wandaran) is an extinct Aboriginal Australian language in the Arnhem family, formerly spoken by the Warndarang people in southern Arnhem Land, along the Gulf of Carpentaria. The last speaker was Isaac Joshua, who died in 1974, while working with the linguist Jeffrey Heath.

Warndarang is characterized by an unusually simplified nominal case system but highly intricate pronominal and demonstrative systems. It is a primarily prefixing language with agglutinating verbal complexes and relatively straightforward syntax.

Warndarang is closely related to Mara, which was traditionally spoken to the south of Warndarang and today has a handful of speakers. The languages Alawa and Yugul, spoken to the west of Warndarang and both apparently extinct, are also related.

Heath's Warndarang grammar contains a 100-page grammatical description, a handful of texts, and a brief wordlist. A Warndarang story of the Hodgson Downs massacre is published separately, and both Margaret Sharpe and Arthur Capell collected material in the 1960s and 1940s, respectively, much of which is unpublished but was incorporated into Heath's grammar.

Lexical categories and their features

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