Auxiliary verbs

What is an auxiliary verb?

An auxiliary verb is a special type of verb which gives you information about the tense and aspect of another verb.

The tense of a verb tells you ‚when’ something happened, teraźniejszy, przeszły and przyszły, and the aspect tells you how you view a situation. In Polish, there are two aspects, dokonany – completed, and niedokonany – in progress.

When you use the passive voice (strona bierna) in Polish you use two auxiliary verbs – być for niedokonany and zostać for dokonany:

jest robione
zostanie zrobione

In the examples above, the verbs być and zostać don’t have their normal meaning, they are being used to give you information about the tense and aspect of the main verb, in this case robić/zrobić.

If you want to change the tense of the main verb, you don’t change the main verb, you change the auxiliary verb, the auxiliary verb gives you information about aspect and tense so the main verb only needs one form:

jest robione
było robione
będzie robione

zostanie zrobione
zostało zrobione

The advantage of using this system is that you only need to know the different forms of the auxiliary verbs – jest, było, będzie, etc., and you can then use a very small number of different forms for the main verb – robione.

It is important to remember that the verb być can be used in two different ways, as a normal verb and as an auxiliary verb:

Jestem uczennicą. – I am a student.
Jestem szczęśliwa. – I am happy

Jest robione w Polsce. – It is made in Poland.

English uses the same system as Polish for the passive voice, so we can compare the two languages directly.

The form for the passive in English is: be + past participle (3rd form)

Jest robione w Polsce.
It is made in Poland.

If we want to change this to a past form, we simply use the past form of the verb be. Notice that we always use the 3rd form of the main verb, so this is always the same.

Było robione w Polsce.
It was made in Poland.

Polish only uses auxiliary verbs for the passive voice, but English uses auxiliary verbs for all its aspects. Remember there are two aspects in Polish, so you use two verbs – być for niedokanany and zostać for dokonany. There are three aspects in English so we need three verbs:

do – simple
be – continuous
have – perfect

Remember that each of these verbs can be used in two different ways, the same as być and zostać in Polish.

Will you do something for me? – Zrobisz coś dla mnie?
What do you do for a living? – Czym się zajmujesz?

I am a student. – Jestem uczennicą.
I am happy. – Jestem szczęśliwa.
It is made in Poland. – Jest robione w Polsce.

I have a car. – Mam samochód.
I have made dinner. – Ugotowałem obiad.