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Chapter One


Auxiliary verbs are what you might have called “helping verbs” when you first learned about grammar: they help a lexical verb by providing grammatical information about a verb’s tense or aspect, or other subtle elements of meaning. There are nine modal auxiliaries, which never change their form because they are never inflected.  Can, could, shall, should, will, would, may, Might, Must. Dare, ought to.

The primary auxiliaries “have, be, and do” sometimes behave like auxiliaries and sometimes like ordinary lexical verbs. Unlike the modal auxiliaries, have, be and do get inflected (had, has, having, am, is, are, was, were, been, being, did, done, doing), so even when they are auxiliaries, they are non-modal. Their inflection is not a clue to whether they are auxiliaries or not, so we have to look at their behaviour in the context of a sentence.If a sentence includes a lexical verb or main verb, then have, be or do in that sentence is likely to be an auxiliary, helping the lexical verb.  In the following examples, the auxiliary verbs are underlined and the lexical verbs (also known as main verbs) are bolded:

 Be; is, am, are, was, were, be, been, being.

Have; has, have, had.

Do; do, done, did.

In addition to their auxiliary functions, have, be and do also have some lexical meaning of their own.  If there’s no other verb in the clause, then have, be, or do is probably the main verb of a clause. If have, be or do serves as the lexical verb, then it might also have some auxiliaries helping out.

Notice that not every sentence has an auxiliary, but every sentence does have a lexical verb.        

  • Background of the Study

Language is very important to human beings. If life is to be lived to the fullest, then language must be acquired, taught, learnt and studied well because life without language in modern civilization will be disastrous since each community is formed by the activity of a langu  age (Bloomfield, 1945:13). Language is part and parcel of man. Therefore, it is difficult to imagine a world without language because language unifies individuals with themselves and their communities.  Therefore, this research considers writing skills in the learning of language to be very essential. The ability to read and write is regarded as very important compared to the ability to speak (Stevense, 1974:65) and writing is regarded as the most difficult of the language skills. Without writing, the human mind or thought could hardly be read or presented (Long, 1993: 78).

The use of auxiliary verbs by the writers of Senior Secondary Schools is what this study is concerned with. Auxiliary verbs are into two kinds. Non-modal (primary) verbs and modal verbs. Nesbitt,(2001) states that Non-Modal verbs are different from modal verbs in the sense that the former can be used as lexical verbs. This means that they sometimes exist on their own, apart from functioning as helping verbs, while the latter cannot, they only perform the function of helping verbs in a sentence they occur, which shows that they are as important as the lexical verb. Therefore, any misuse or misinterpretation of the auxiliary verbs can bring about distortion of the meaning meant to be conveyed. It is interesting to note that proper use of these auxiliary verbs helps to make our writing faultless and to convey meaningful information.

The current researcher has observed that students in Senior secondary schools especially in Qua’an-pan Local Government area, are characterized by the wrong use of auxiliary verbs. In a country such as Nigeria where English Language performs an official function in school. The use of English in Senior secondary school should display less obvious errors and the need for proficiency is not only desirable but absolutely necessary. The English language is not only used as a medium of instruction from the pre-primary to University level but it is also taught as a subject at every level of education. It is no wonder that English enjoys a prestigious position in our day-to-day activities. The need for teachers of English to attain professionalism and proficiency in English cannot be overstressed as it will enable them to use the language correctly and efficiently. Although, such grammatical deviation as the wrong use of auxiliary verbs does not usually result in a serious unintelligibility. It is indicative of the user’s imperfect knowledge of the English language. Crystal (2008) opines that a verb is an element which can display morphological contrast of tense, aspect, voice, mood, person and number. Auxiliary verbs as the name implies, are generally referred to as helping or supporting verbs (Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 2006/7). They are so called for the fact that they help to make up the verbal phrase in a sentence and in particular, they perform the function of helping or supporting the main verbs which could either, be transitive to carry out their functions meaningfully in sentences where they are used.

This work is specially concerned with analyzing interpersonal meanings which are the various interpretations deduced from the use of the English auxiliary verbs on Senior secondary school, a case study of four secondary Schools in Qua’an-pan Local Government Area. The interpersonal meanings are contained in communicative functions such as possibility, probability, necessity, ability, certainty, instance, permission, obligation, prohibition, and doubts. These meanings are expressed through the interpersonal meta function which helps a speaker to take part in communicative acts with other people. The interpersonal meta function is used to show the relationships among the participants when they express meanings like degrees of possibility, probability, obligation, necessity, permission and certainty. This research is concerned with the students reporting the other students Non-compliance, refusals and letters written to the staff of the school. Below are some, among many of the difficulties that some students and staff exhibit in the expressions which reveals the misuse and misinterpretation of auxiliary verbs. Examples of such wrong use are as follow:

  1. He would submit the Assignment now.

Some of the expression of students and staff show the exchange of the modal auxiliary verb “would” for “will” as in the sentence above which renders the sentence faulty grammatically.

  1. The women doesn’t come for work any longer.

This sentence is an example of how some writers or speakers (Students and staff) use the auxiliary verb form of “Do” is used together with the negative particles (n’t) which is doesn’t in place of don’t and vice versa. Here the singular form is used instead of plural just to please the negation which is contracted (n’t). That renders the sentence grammatically faulty.

  1. He have many works to carry out today. Sometimes use the auxiliary verb form “have” for “has” in their sentences. Thereby making sentences grammatically wrong.
  2. I used to come for practice every day.

Students in Senior secondary schools sometimes misuse the modal auxiliary form, “used to” on most occasions in their sentences. They do not know or forget that this verb form can only be used as past tense indicating habitual behavior, so they use it in sentences about present events. Consequently the poor readers or careless listeners also have a problem of not being able to identify the obvious errors committed by the users in Senior secondary schools except for advance readers.

  • Statement of the Research Problem.

This study is a syntactic analysis of the use of auxiliary verbs in Senior secondary schools level users of auxiliary verbs; they are victim of making grammatical errors and misinterpretation at the syntactic and semantic levels.

It is to this effect that the statement of the problem formulated in this research work:

  1. Senior secondary schools make mistakes in their use of auxiliary verbs.
  2. Senior secondary schools often used auxiliary verbs (non-modal and modal auxiliary verbs) inter-changeably.
  • Auxiliary verbs users in Senior secondary schools to some context convey wrong information due to the misuse or misinterpretation of auxiliary verb.

 The wrong use of main and auxiliary verbs are used in Senior secondary school level brings to question the competence levels of teachers (staff) language users.

It is therefore based on the above that this study seeks to investigate the extent to which the poor performance in communicating via writing, drafting and speaking in Senior secondary schools which could be as a result of inadequate knowledge of the rules of grammar, Ignorance and nonchalant attitudes to the subject matter by the staff of Senior secondary schools in Qua’an-pan. Clearly, this may be why some students use auxiliary verbs or main verbs poorly in Senior secondary schools in their writing and speaking.

  • Research Question

This study seeks to answer, the following questions:

  1. How do Senior secondary schools make mistakes in their use of auxiliary verbs?
  2. What context do users of auxiliary verb (non-modal auxiliary verbs and modal auxiliary) in Senior secondary school level in Qua’an-pan inter-change auxiliary verbs?
  • What context do students in Qua’an-pan convey wrong Information due to misuse or misinterpretation of auxiliary verbs?
    • Aim and Objectives of the Study.

The main aim of this research is to do a syntactic analysis of the use of auxiliary verbs in Senior secondary school in Qua’an-pan Local Government Area. Consequently, the objectives of carrying out this research are to:

  1. Identify which auxiliary verbs are more wrongly used by Senior secondary school students in Qua’an-pan.
  2. Enumerate the contexts in which students in Senior secondary school misuse auxiliary verbs.
  • Analyse the content to which some students in Senior secondary schools in Qua’an-pan Local Government Area, convey wrong information due to wrong use of auxiliary verbs.
  1. To also analyse the common mistakes made among students in Senior secondary schools.
    • Scope and Limitation of the Study.

The focus of this research is mainly on the use of auxiliary verbs in Senior secondary schools using four schools in Qua’an-pan Local Government Area for sampling.

The research will also include administering of written interview particularly questionnaire to the students within Qua’an-pan Local Government Area especially the four selected schools.

Due to the time factor and financial constraint, the research is limited to carry out only in four schools in Qua’an –pan Local Government Area. The schools include:

Government Secondary School Doemak,

Government Secondary School Kwallah,

Government Secondary School Dokan-Kasuwa and

 Government secondary School kwande.

  • Justification of the Study

The need for this study came up when it was observed that the rate of grammatical errors being committed by the students in Senior Secondary Schools is on the increase. The research is anchored on the fact that it is important to master the rules guiding the application of English auxiliary verbs in Senior schools in order to ensure effective communication.

Although, other studies may have been carried out on the students in secondary schools, this one is with emphasis on the use of auxiliary verbs in Senior secondary schools. It is hoped that this present study will gives more light on some of the errors that pertain the use of auxiliary verbs in Senior secondary schools. Rich knowledge of the auxiliary verbs is needed by the staff and students especially in syntactic signification and structures, in order to reduce the many errors inherent in Senior secondary school students, it is important that the students in Senior secondary schools understand:

  1. How to use English auxiliary verbs
  2. Which English auxiliary verbs to use
  • When to use English auxiliary verbs
  1. When it is necessary to use English auxiliary verbs.
    • Definition of the Term

Syntax: Syntax is the study of structure of sentence and construction within sentence. It is the correct ordering of subject, verb, object and so on to result to well-formed sentence.

Auxiliary Verbs: Auxiliary verb (or helping verb as it is called) is used with a main verb to help express the main verb’s tense, mood, or voice. They are so called for the fact that they help to make up the verbal phrase in a sentence and in particular, they perform the function of helping or supporting the main verbs which could either, be transitive to carry out their functions meaningfully in sentences where they are used.

Grammar: Grammar is the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases and words in a natural language. Grammar equally refers to the study of the rules of phonology, syntax, and morphology that is often complemented by phonetics, semantic and pragmatics. 

Language:  Language is a system of communication agreed upon by a speech community for the expressions of thought; feelings, ideas, views and inspirations. Language is the strong bone of every society.


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