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I was looking through Internet and I got confused about the Past simple of the verb "To do" as an auxiliary verb.

We all know the basic syntax that is:

Subject + auxiliary verb "to do" (past simple) + full verb (present simple) + complement

Example:

Mr. Johson did write a novel.

The thing is that I also saw another form of it and I want to ask you if is it correct.

Subject + Auxiliary verb "to do" (present simple) + full verb (past simple) + complement

Example:

Mr. Johnson does wrote a novel/Mr. Johnson wrote a novel

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    Where did you see a sentence like "Mr. Johnson does wrote a novel"? That example isn't correct, but maybe you misunderstood the grammar of another sentence that looks similar.
    – sumelic
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 20:43
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    Herby: You are confusing the verb do with the verb do used as an auxiliary. Mr. Johnson wrote a novel. Mr. Johnson did write a novel=only for emphasis. Your tenses are confused: write, wrote, written//do, did, done. But do is also used as to emphasize: He did write a novel.
    – Lambie
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 20:47

3 Answers 3

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"Does", describing an action, does not need to precede "write", which, in itself, already describes an action.

An example of when does would be used is if the sentence is a confirmation/emphasis:

Wait, Mr. Johnson writes novels?

Yes, Mr. Johnson does write novels.

When expressing the past, write, the infinitive, can still be used, but does must be converted to the past tense:

Wait, Mr. Johnson wrote novels?

Yes, Mr. Johnson did write novels.

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The rule is the auxiliary DO is always finite (tensed) and the main verb must be in the plain form.

So only the auxiliary DO can be the marker of tense. Consider:

  1. Mr. Johson wrote (past tense) a novel.

  2. Mr. Johson did (past tense) write a novel.

  3. *Mr. Johson did wrote a novel. (ungrammatical)

The first sentence is grammatical. The past tense form of WRITE, wrote, tells us the sentence is in the past tense.

Did in #2 is called an empatic do, an auxiliary DO that adds emphasis to the assertion. As I said before, when the auxiliary DO is used, it's always the marker of tense and the main verb must be in the plain form; hence, the unacceptable #3.

Incidentally, we no longer use the term verb "to do" because the auxiliary DO is always finite and therefore cannot be used after the infinitive to.

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An auxiliary "do" can also be used to indicate a sequence:

Ms. Jones did write novels before her accident, but she no longer does so.

This can also be expressed without using an auxiliary "do", but the sense of sequence is not as strong, and in that case "write" must be in the past tense:

Ms. Jones wrote novels before her accident, but she no longer does so.

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