Learning English grammar: The verb “to do”

Learning English includes understanding different verbs and their use in different tenses. The verb to do in the English language is of great importance. It can be used as an auxiliary and main verb. “To do” is used to express action or activity. It can be any action, from routine activities to more complex tasks. “To do” is used as an auxiliary verb to form questions and objections in Present Simple and Past Simple. Understanding this basic meaning will help you use the verb in different situations.

Forms of the verb “to do” in English

The verb “to do” has several forms in the English language, which are used in different tense forms and for forming questions and negatives. Here are the main forms of the verb “to do”:

Base Form (Infinitive): to do

Present Simple Forms:

  • I: do
    • I do my homework every day.
  • He/She/It: does
    • She does her chores after school.
  • You: do
    • Do you enjoy reading?
  • We/They: do
    • They do their shopping on weekends.

Past Simple Forms:

  • I: did
    • I did my laundry yesterday.
  • He/She/It: did
    • He did his best on the test.
  • You: did
    • Did you watch the movie last night?
  • We/They: did
    • They did a great job at the presentation.

Present Participle Form (Present Continuous): doing

Past Participle Form (Present Perfect, Past Perfect, Passive Voice): done

Forms in Questions and Negatives:

Present Simple Auxiliary Verb: do (for all persons)

  • Question: Do you like pizza?
  • Negative: I do not (don’t) like coffee.

Past Simple Auxiliary Verb: did (for all persons)

  • Question: Did they watch the game?
  • Negative: She did not (didn’t) go to the party.

This information along with the examples will help you better understand and use the various forms of the verb “to do” in English speech.

Let’s consider some forms of the use of to do in different tenses in the table.

Forms of To Do
I / you / we / theydodidhave / had doneare / were doing
he / she / itdoesdidhas / had doneis / was doing

This verb is often used in questions. As an auxiliary verb do is used with the main verb when forming interrogative or negative sentences or to add emphasis.

QuestionPositive Statement (spoken)Negative Statement (spoken)
Do I?I doI do not (I don’t)
Do you?You doYou do not (You don’t)
Does he/she/it?He/she/it doesHe/she/it does not (He/she/it doesn’t)
Do we?We doWe do not (We don’t)
Do you?You doYou do not (You don’t)
Do they?They doThey do not (They don’t)

Functions of the verb “to do” in English: Revealing different aspects

The Verb “to do” in the English Language serves various functions that manifest in different contexts and grammatical structures. Here’s a detailed overview of the primary functions of this important verb:

  1. Main Action Verb:

    Firstly, “to do” functions as a primary action verb that expresses an activity or action performed by the subject of the sentence. This can range from everyday routine tasks to more complex actions:

    • I do my homework every evening.
    • She does yoga to stay healthy.
  2. Auxiliary Verb for Questions and Negations:

    The verb “to do” is used as an auxiliary verb to form questions and negations in various tense forms. It is combined with the base form of the main verb:

    • Do you like ice cream?
    • He doesn’t speak Spanish.
    • Did they watch the movie?
  3. Emphasis of Expression:

    In some cases, “to do” is employed to emphasize the action or expression. This can accentuate impulsiveness, uncertainty, or even add an emotional tone:

    • I do appreciate your help.
    • She does want to go on that trip.
  4. Replacement for Other Verbs:

    In certain contexts, “to do” can replace other verbs when the specific verb is already mentioned or understood from the context:

    • I can’t swim, but I can do the backstroke.
    • They don’t like dancing, but they do enjoy singing.
  5. In Phrasal Verbs:

    In some phrasal verbs, “to do” is used to form expressions with specific meanings:

    • They need to do away with that old tradition.
    • He did a great job on the project.

These diverse functions of the verb “to do” contribute to its flexibility and significance in English sentences.

Another such popular verb that is often used is to be.

Exercise: Forms of the verb “to do”

Part 1: Choose the correct form of the verb for each sentence.

  1. He usually __ his homework in the evening. a) do b) does c) did
  2. We __ a great job at the presentation last week. a) do b) does c) did
  3. __ you enjoy playing musical instruments? a) Do b) Does c) Did
  4. She __ not (doesn’t) like horror movies. a) do b) does c) did
  5. I __ my breakfast every morning. a) do b) does c) did

Part 2: Form questions for the highlighted words.

  1. They watch movies at home.
  2. She likes swimming in the ocean.
  3. He played football yesterday.
  4. We enjoy going to the park.
  5. I did my homework last night.

Correct Answers:

Part 1:

  1. b) does
  2. c) did
  3. a) Do
  4. b) does
  5. a) do

Part 2:

  1. Do they watch movies at home?
  2. Does she like swimming in the ocean?
  3. Did he play football yesterday?
  4. Do we enjoy going to the park?
  5. Did I do my homework last night?
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