Verb DO

The verb DO plays an enormous role in the English language. It is the most important verb after BE. The primary function of DO is as an auxiliary verb. In this role it is used to form questions and negative statements.

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Like the verbs BE and HAVE, the verb DO can also be used as a main verb. This lesson will examine the role DO plays as a main verb. To learn about the other functions of the verb DO, click on the links below.

Like all verbs in English, except the verb BE, the verb DO has two conjugations in the simple present: do | does.

  singular   plural
first person I do we do
second person you do you do
third person he, she, it does they do

Notice that the third person singular form of the verb has -es added. All the other conjugations are do.

In fact, use of the verb DO as a main verb in the simple present is very limited. It’s only purpose is to indicate who or what performs a chore, in other words a habitual action or task. Here are examples.

He does his homework at night.
We do it all the time.
The car does this when it is cold.
Machines do the difficlult work.

The reason DO plays such a limited role as a main verb in affirmative statement is because more precise verbs are available. Here are examples to demonstrate this point.

correct   incorrect
I drink wine. I do wine.
The boy plays the piano. The boy does the piano.
They read books. They do books.

Similarly, DO is not used as an auxiliary verb in affirmative statements because the main verb alone is suffiscient.

correct   incorrect
I drink wine. I do drink wine.
The boy plays the piano. The boy does play the piano.
They read books. They do read books.

However, occassionally the verb DO is used as an auxiliary verb in affirmative statements in order to make a contradiction. Here are examples :

assertion   contradiction
Tom drinks tea. He doesn’t drink coffee. Yes, Tom does drink coffee.
I’m sorry, I don’t have a pen. Oh, I do have a pen! Here.
Susan doesn’t smoke. I am mistaken. Susan does smoke.

In the instances above, DO is stressed.

The verb DO has a single conjugation for all persons in the simple past (did).

  singular   plural
1st per I did we did
2nd per you did you did
3rd per he, she, it did they did

Here are examples with DO used as a main verb in the simple past.

I did the dishes last night.
Tom did the cleaning of the house.
We did a tour of the city.
Your idea did help, a little.

Note that in the simple past, did refers to a single action. It does not indicate a habitual action. Again, the use of DO, when used in the simple past, is very limited. There is always another verb that is more precise.

less presice    more precise
I did the dishes last night. I washed the dishes last night.
Tom did the cleaning of the house. Tom cleaned the house.
We did a tour of the city. We went on a tour of the city.
Your idea did help, a little. Your idea helped, a little.

Remember, DO functions primarily as an auxiliary verb. Click on the related lessons below to learn more about this very important verb.

Related lessons

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