Semi-auxiliary – semi-auxiliaire


Let's Define It!

What's a *semi-auxiliary*?

You certainly know that the two (most common) French auxiliary verbs are avoir and être.

In addition to these two, there are a number of French verbs like aller, devoir, pouvoir, savoir, faillir, etc. that act like auxiliaries. We call them semi-auxiliaries. Notice how the infinitives follow the semi-auxiliaries in the following two examples.

"Je sais nager" I know how to swim. / I can swim.

"Elvis doit travailler cette nuit" / Elvis must work tonight.

The semi-auxiliaries connect themselves to other verbs that remain in the infinitive. While conjugated, these semi-auxiliaries help the infinitives express aspects of time and mood. So in a sense, you can say that any French verb capable of accepting another verb in the infinitive next to it is a semi-auxiliary.

Unlike the traditional auxiliaries avoir and être taking a past participle, semi-auxiliaries typically take an infinitive.


Let's Pronounce It!

What does it sound like in French?


Let's Have an Example or Two!

Can a little reinforcement do the trick?

Find below a number of sentences that include semi-auxiliary verbs.

  1. J'ai fait venir le docteur. / I called for the doctor.
  2. Nous voulons aller au cinéma. / We want to go to the movie theater.
  3. Elle va jouer au foot. / She is going to play soccer.
  4. Les enfants savent maintenant faire un noeud. / The children now know how to make a knot. 
  5. Il ne peut pas soulever cette pierre. /He can't lift this stone. 


Let's Take a Quiz!

What did you learn?