Why can't we use helping verbs like do/does of present simple and did of past simple in positive sentences of present simple tense and past simple tense?

Such as:

  • She makes tea.

  • They went to park.

If we convert them into negative or interrogative sentences, we use helping verb; but in case of other tenses we use helping verb in all formats of sentences i.e. positive, negative, and interrogative.

  • I'm not sure I understand your question. When you say "helping verbs", do you mean things like be, have, and do, or conditionals like might, should, and must? You can certainly use helping verbs like be or have, but then it isn't the present or past simple anymore, because She is making tea is the present progressive, and "She has made tea" is the present perfect.
    – stangdon
    Jun 14, 2016 at 23:20

1 Answer 1


The simple present and simple past are by definition verb constructions which are not accompanied by auxiliaries (helping verbs). That's why they're called "simple".

First, a terminological note: When I speak of "tense" below I don't mean the many single- and multi-word verb chains which English teachers and students often call tenses. I call these "constructions". By "tense" I mean the past or non-past time reference expressed by inflection: a change in the form of the verb, such as adding an ending or changing the pronunciation.

Do, does and did are used in present- and past-tense affirmative sentences; in fact, the principal use of this construction is to emphasize that a response is affirmative:

A: You never listen to me.
B: I do listen to you! I'm listening to you right now!

A: Brian doesn't like my cookies.
B: I think he does like your cookies, but he's trying to lose weight.

A: You should get a haircut.
B: I did get a haircut, just yesterday!

However, do/does/did are not used with finite forms of the main verb: forms which express and are inflected for tense, person and number. No auxiliary is ever used with a finite form, only with non-finite forms which have no tense, person or number.

  • The auxiliaries have and be are used with participles of the main verb:

    She has broken my heart. (broken is the past participle; HAVE + past participle is the perfect construction.)

    My heart was broken when she left. (BE + past participle is the passive construction.)

    She is breaking my heart. (breaking is the present participle; BE + past participle is the progressive construction.)

    Note that with most English verbs—'regular' verbs—the past participle (broken, here) and the past-tense finite form are identical, which leads many learners to think that the auxiliaries are used with the past-tense form. But so many English verbs—'irregular' verbs—have different past-tense and past participle forms, and those verbs are used so frequently, that we have to make the distinction them in order to make sense of how the language works. —Hold on to that thought; we're going to come back to it shortly.

  • All other auxiliaries (do/does/did and the 'modal' auxiliaries can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would) are used with the infinitive form of the main verb.

    This, again, is difficult for learners to recognize, because with every verb except one the infinitive form is identical with the plain present form. ...

Then why do we give a different name to the form we use with do/does/did and the modal auxiliaries? —for two reasons:

  1. Unlike the many English verbs which have distinct past participle and past-tense forms, there is only one verb which does have a distinct infinitive form. But that verb is be, which is so central to the language that it can't be treated as a minor exception. Note that we never use any of the present- or past-tense forms with the modal auxiliaries or with the 'infinitive marker' to:

    Jack will be here tomorrow, not *Jack will is
    Jack had to **be* in London yesterday, not *Jack had to was

    Consequently, we distinguish the infinitive from the identical plain present-tense form for the same reason we distinguish the regular past participle from the identical regular past-tense form: because it lets us make sense of how these constructions are built.

  2. Historically, the infinitive and the present form were different, marked with different endings. Those endings were lost in the course of the transition from Old English to Modern English, but there are still 'traces' of the difference in English syntax. Once more the distinction of identical forms enables us to recognize important rules of the language.

    For instance, there is the rule that in any verb construction only the first verb in the chain can be a finite form; all the rest must be non-finite forms.

    That's what's happening with I do listen and He does like your cookies and I did get a haircut: the first verb, a finite form of DO, is inflected for tense, person and number, and it is followed by the infinitive form of the main verb, listen, like, get.

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