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Question
Dear Teds

Can you please tell me the correct name for a verb that is composed of an auxiliary verb and another verb as in:  “were destroyed”, “was looking”, “will meet”, and “has been barking”.

Is there a general term for this type of construction in addition to the name of the specific verb tense?

Some sources call these “compound verbs”  
Please see:  http://www.writingcentre.uottawa.ca/hypergrammar/vbcmpd.html

But, I thought a “compound verb” was when a subject does two a more things as in:

“I ate the food and drank the milk.”

Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Rich

Answer
Dear Rich:

Can you please tell me the correct name for a verb that is composed of an
auxiliary verb and another verb as in:  “were destroyed”, “was looking”, “will
meet”, and “has been barking”.

Is there a general term for this type of construction in addition to the name of
the specific verb tense?

Some sources call these “compound verbs”  
Please see:  http://www.writingcentre.uottawa.ca/hypergrammar/vbcmpd.html

But, I thought a “compound verb” was when a subject does two a more things as
in:

“I ate the food and drank the milk.”

*** Rich, I don't like that website.  I have a feeling that individual students at the University of Ottawa put together the various entries.  Although I have mentioned to you that there are different names for different constructions or functions in sentences, I cannot accept this definition of a compound verb.

YOUR example, using food and milk, is correct.  You have one subject -- I -- with two verbs.  Those verbs are joined with the conjunction "and," another tip off that you have a COMPOUND structure.

Most grammar books call your examples "helping verbs + main verbs."  Together, they MAY be called "verb phrases," although some grammarians do not like to use that term for a verb and its "helper."

If you want to get really technical, the construction of this kind of verb phrase is "auxiliary verb + lexical verb."

See the references at this site:

http://grammar.about.com/od/fh/g/helpverbterm.htm

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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