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- Special verbs
- Normal verbs
- The rule of the 3 No's: No S, No To, No Do
- The 4 basic constructions in English:
    - Affirmative
    - Negative
    - Questions
    - Short Answers



English verbs: normal or special?
Normal vs Special verbs: Negative sentences
Normal vs Special verbs: questions
Normal vs Special verbs: short anwsers
Level: Level: Basic

Basic Sentence Structure: normal vs special verbs

It is very important to know which verbs are normal and which are special, because the sentence structure is different in each case.


They can do everything, they never need help. Special verbs are auxiliaries and modals, and there are only 13:

auxiliaries:   to be, have, do
modals:       can/could, will/would, shall/should, may/might, must, ought to


All the other verbs are normal. They can only build an affirmative sentence. For all the other constructions they need to use DO

Special verbs follow the rule of the three NO's: No -S, No To, No Do


NO –S   
 I can / she can   I want / She wants
 I can walk / to can
  I want to go / to want
 you can / you can’t / can you?   you want / you don't want / do you want?

❶- No S: Special verbs don't add an -S for the third person singular in the simple present tense. The forms is, has are irregular forms, but still, they are not bes (be + S) or haves (have + S)

❷- No To: Special verbs are never followed by an "infinitive with to" (exception: ought to), and they don't have an infinitive form (exception: to be). To do and To have are normal verbs different from Do and Have. Compare:

- Do = special (auxiliary verb, no meaning):     Do you like it?
- To Do = normal verb:     I do yoga in the mornings / Do you do yoga?
- Have = special (auxiliary verb, no meaning):     Have you ever been to London?
- To Have = normal verb:     I have a car / do you have a car?
Note: Have got = have (special) + got (normal):     Have you got a car? (= do you have a car)

❸- No Do: Special verbs never use DO

I can't speak Russian (not: I don't can speak Russian)
Are you Polish? (not: Do you are Polish?)


Abbreviations used here:  s.v.= special verb  n.v.= normal verb  S= subject  V= verb  O= object, adverbial, complement


Let's see how these three rules work in practice, shaping the 4 most common constructions in the language


s.v. & n.v.   S+V+(O)

- I am Spanish
- He can speak English

- You live in London
- She likes Japanese music


s.v.   S+ V+not  +(O)
- I am not French
- She can’t speak Italian

n.v.   S+do+not +V+(O)
- You don’t live in Rome
- She doesn’t like Jazz


s.v.   V+S +(O) ?
- Are you Spanish?
- Can she speak English?

n.v.   do+S +V+(O) ?

- Do you live in London?
- Does she like Japanese music?


Are you Spanish?  Yes, I am / No, I'm not
Can she speak English? / Yes, she can / No, she can't
n.v. (use do)
Do you live in London?  Yes, I do / No, I don't
Does she like Japanese music?  Yes, she does / No, she doesn't

(simple rule: for Short Answers, the same verb that starts the question is the verb that will finish the answer)


to be: I am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, you are, they are

have: I have, you have, he/she/it has, we/you/they have

do: I do, you do, he/she/it does /dʌz/, we/you/they do


to be: I'm not, you aren't, he/she/it isn't, we/you/they aren't /ɑ:nt/ (AmE /ɑ:rnt/) (also: you're not, he's not...)

have: I haven't, you haven't, he/she/it hasn't, we/you/they haven't

do: I don't, you don't, he/she/it doesn't, we/you/they don't

can't / couldn't, won't / wouldn't, shall not / shouldn't, may not / might not, mustn't, oughtn't to


Note: the forms shan't (shall not), mayn't (may not) and mightn't (might not) are old-fashioned.

can't = cannot /kænət/ (* can not)



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