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Difference between Lexical Verb & Auxiliary Verb

Lexical Verb & Auxiliary Verb

What is the difference between a lexical verb and an auxiliary verb? Both are types of verbs. Since a verb is a main part of a sentence, the difference in these two types of verbs is significant. One type of verb shows word meaning, or content, and the other type shows grammatical meaning.

First of all, it is important to understand what a verb is. A verb is a type of word, or a grammatical part of speech, that shows action or an occurrence is happening, has happened or will happen. Every sentence must contain a verb. For example: She runs to the bus stop. ‘Runs’ is the verb because it shows action. A verb also can indicate a state of being. For example: They exist on pizza and beer on the weekends. ‘Exist’ is a state of being verb. Verbs also have tenses to indicate the timing of an action, occurrence or state of being. There are various types of verbs, and this depends of the other kinds of words after it and the relationship those words have to the verb.

A lexical verb, or sometimes called a full or main verb, basically is a classification that includes all verbs, except auxiliary verbs. Lexical verbs show the action, occurrence or state of being going on in a sentence. The label of ‘lexical’ means that it relates to words or vocabulary in a language. This signifies that lexical verbs are content words, or words that are essential to the meaning of a sentence. They provide vital information about what is happening. Because of this, these verbs generally start out a verb phrase. Most verbs fall into this category. For example: He went to the store. ‘Went’ is the lexical verb showing what the subject did. It starts out the verb phrase ‘went to the store’.

Auxiliary verbs are the category of verbs that are not lexical. This means their function relates more to the grammar rather than the information content of a sentence. Sometimes they are called helping or helper verbs. These verbs usually are used with a main lexical verb that provides the content. The auxiliary verb is used to show the tense, voice, aspect, emphasis or mood. For example: We have left the house. In this sentence, ‘have’ is the auxiliary verb, which indicates the present perfect tense, and ‘left’ is the lexical verb, which shows content or meaning. Sentences can contain two or more auxiliary verbs. For example: She will have been gone by the time we get there. ‘Will’, ‘have’ and ‘been’ are a chain of auxiliary verbs linked to the lexical verb, ‘gone’.

While a lexical verb provides content and meaning information, an auxiliary verb provides grammatical information. This is the main difference. Auxiliary verbs are not used alone, but lexical verbs may be. Both lexical and auxiliary verbs are important to the structure and sense of a sentence.


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