Grammar: Level 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helping Words

In the old days, teachers used to teach students how to diagram sentences, like this:

Personally, I'm not a big fan of diagramming sentences. I just don't think it's that useful. However, I am a firm believer in simplifying sentences. That is, I firmly believe that every student should learn how to reduce a sentence to it's simplest form. This skill is important, in my opinion, because it's the best way to truly understand "the English Sentence".

So here we go again.

In this lesson, I'm going to tell you about another large category of words—the helping words—and these words are important because they can always be canceled or ignored. In other words, when analyzing a sentence, you can always cross them out.

What's a Helping Word?

A helping word is a word that refines the meaning of the main verb. For example, helping words can:

Here is a more-or-less complete list of helping words:

Helping Words
  • may
  • may not
  • might
  • might not
  • must
  • must not
  • do
  • do not
  • does
  • does not
  • did
  • did not
  • should
  • should not
  • could
  • could not
  • would
  • would not
  • have
  • have not
  • had
  • had not
  • has
  • has not
  • will
  • will not
  • going to
  • not going to
  • can
  • cannot
  • shall
  • shall not

 

Simplifying Sentences with Helping Words

It's important to realize that helping words do not change the underlying structure of sentence. Consider, for example, this sentence:

You have already learned that "am" is a form of "is", which is a form of the verb "to be", which is a linking verb, which means that it functions roughly the same as an equal sign. Therefore, the sentence:

is roughly equivalent to

That's not to hard, is it?

But if I throw in a bunch of helping words, it may obscure the underlying pattern. (The underlying pattern becomes hard to see). That's why you must learn to ignore helping words; they just clutter up a sentence, without being important in any structural kind of way. (To return to a previous analogy, helping words are not "load-bearing walls").

Study the examples on the left. All these sentence may seem very different, but in fact they all boil down to the same equation.

Sentence Equation

I am a student.

I = student.

I was a student

I = student.

I have been a student.

I = student.

I am going to be a student

I = student.

I will be a student.

I = student.

I could be a student.

I = student.

I would be a student.

I = student.

I should be a student.

I = student.

I might be a student.

I = student.

I might have been a student.

I = student.

I am not a student.

I = student.

I was not a student

I = student.

I will not be a student.

I = student.

I could not have been a student.

I = student.

I might not be a student.

I = student.


Most of the sentences that I will ask you to analyze will be positive sentences in present tense or simple past tense. However, occassiaonlly you may encounter sentence variations such as the ones above. Don't be thrown off. If it helps, convert the sentence into a positive statement in present tense or simple past tense. This should make it easier to analyze the sentence.

In other words, if you see a sentence like this:

You should mentally cross out all the helping words, and you can (if it helps) convert the main verb to a positive, present-tense verb, like this:

Study the following sentences to see how each of them have been simplified.

Original Sentence Simplified Sentence

I might sing.

I sing.

She is going to be a dancer.

She is a dancer.

She can swim.

She swims.

Jane should not ask questions.

Jane asks questions.

I did not give the monkey a banana.

I give the monkey a banana.


The Takeway

Don't worry too much about helping words, right now: The purpose of this lesson was simply to:

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the quetions.

Quiz