I always find it a bit difficult finding auxiliary verbs. How do they differ from the ordinary verbs?

How do you do?

Are these both do's are auxiliary? Or general? Or both?

Is there any way to find an auxiliary verb in a sentence? How do I differentiate it with a general verb in the same sentence? Any easy trick?

  • 1
    The greeting "How do you do?" is a "frozen form". Do not attempt to understand "how it works" hoping to use this information to understand contemporary English, because it simply won't work. Apr 5, 2014 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


As a "trick", i'd say, use the third person singular. The auxiliary verb will change:

How do you do?
How does he do?

Also, the auxiliary verb cannot be replaced by another verb. The general one can, in order to change the meaning of the sentence:

How do you do?
How do you swim?
How do you drive?

The first do I cannot replace like that:

How do you do?
*How swim you do?
*How drive you do?

  • I do not do anything when I'm nervous - The first do is auxiliary...isn't it?
    – Maulik V
    Apr 5, 2014 at 12:38
  • @oerkelens This is great advice but what's ecan? The general on ecan...
    – Helix Quar
    Apr 5, 2014 at 12:47
  • @MaulikV: yups, try "I do not swim when I'm nervous" or "He does not do anything when he's nervous".
    – oerkelens
    Apr 5, 2014 at 12:54
  • 2
    @Helix: If you have any experience with the military you should know that a general on ecan can be incredibly dangerous. That substance is not to be given to generals, especially not general Motors, general Failure and general Electric. Also, I have an eager-space keyboard. It works just like any other keyboard, but it tends to send out spaces just one character too soon sometimes. It's still better than the alternative, the lazy-space keyboard. Thatc anc ausee evenm orep roblems.
    – oerkelens
    Apr 5, 2014 at 12:58

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