When to use the auxiliary verb “do” in a positive sentence

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Hi students, it’s Shayna, your teacher from espressoenglish.net, and today, I want to answer a really interesting question. First of all, if you are here with me watching live, then please like this video so that I know that you are in my class.

Well, a student asked me when we use the auxiliary verb “do” in the positive. Let me explain.

Normally, in English when we’re talking about, say, the present simple, we form the sentences like this:

  • “They study,” in the positive.
  • “They don’t study,” in the negative.
  • When asking a question, we ask, “Do they study?”

Normally, we use the auxiliary verb “do” and “don’t” only in the negative and in the questions, but my student asked … She said, “Sometimes, I see people say, ‘They do study’ using the auxiliary verb in the positive.” When would we say it like this? Well, there actually is an answer for this.

Remember, normally, we don’t use “do” in the positive, only in the negative and in the question. Sometimes, we do say a sentence like, “They do study.” We say it like this when we want to give extra emphasis to the positive, usually after a corresponding negative sentence. Let me give you an example to make it clearer.

Let’s say that I have some students, and a lot of my students didn’t pass a test, and I’m talking about this situation with another teacher. The other teacher says, “Well, the problem is they don’t study.” I could respond, arguing with this other teacher or disagreeing with her, “They do study. The problem is that the test is too hard.”

Okay, so the other teacher expressed a negative opinion, “They don’t study,” and to make a contrast with her negative opinion, I gave a positive one. “They do study,” so instead of just saying, “They study,” I added the word “do” for extra emphasis.

You’ll see this a lot in arguments and disagreements, for example, if you have a boyfriend and a girlfriend who are having an argument, and the girlfriend might say, “You don’t care about my feelings.” The boyfriend might respond, “I do care” in order to emphasize that positive statement in contrast with her negative statement.

Sometimes, you’ll even see one person making both a negative and then a positive statement using “don’t” in the negative and then “do” to emphasize the contrast with the positive. Let me give you an example for that.

Let’s imagine that I’m teaching an English class which ends at 4 o’clock, but after the class, I’m going to have a review session for test, but the review session is optional. It’s not required. This students can choose if they want to stay for the review session or just leave at 4 o’clock at the end of the class.

At 4 o’clock, I might say something like this, “If you don’t want to stay for the review session, then you can leave now. If you do want to stay, then we’ll take a five-minute break and then start the review.”

So I made one negative statement. “If you don’t want to stay, you can leave.” Then I made one positive statement using “do” for extra emphasis. “If you do want to stay for the review, then we’ll start in five minutes.” Okay?

Remember, normally in English, we do not use “do” in the positive. We would just say, “They study,” but when we want to give extra emphasis to the positive after making a negative statement or after someone else makes a negative statement, then we can add the auxiliary verb “do” for extra emphasis.

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Learn more: 10 expressions with “don’t”