What are the differences between lexical verbs and auxiliary verbs?

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The above answers do a good job, but it is good to start with definitions. 

Lexical verbs express action, state of being, or predicate meaning. In a word, they are the main verbs of a sentence. 

An auxiliary verb is a helping verb, that is, auxiliary verbs help the main verb. When auxiliary verbs exists, there is a verb phrase.

Here are a few examples:

1. The boy ran into the forest. "Ran" is the main or lexical verb.

2. The boy will have run into the forest. "Ran" is still the main or lexical verb, but the words "will have" are auxiliary verbs, as they help the main verb. 

3. She saw the bird. "Saw" is the main or lexical verb.

4. She could have seen the bird. The words "could have" are auxiliary verbs.

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Everyone learns, from an early age, that a verb is an action or "doing" word. As learners are given more information about verbs, they come to recognize distinctions in tense and the nature of verbs; whether they are passive or active, transitive or intransitive, finite or non-finite, simple, continuous or perfect tenses, and even what mood they create; prompting questions about the intention, attitude or "mood" of the verb being expressed.

Auxiliary verbs, affectionately called "helping" verbs often help define tenses, mood and voice but are also often overlooked as they defy the basic tenet of a verb as they do not actually indicate what action may be taking place. Lexical verbs are those easily recognizable action words; the word "lexical" indicating the most common use or intention of, in this case, a verb which, as pointed out, is to denote an action. To clarify, most verbs are lexical verbs and, if not lexical verbs, they are auxiliary verbs.  

The biggest difference between the two types of verbs is that lexical verbs indicate the main action taking place in any sentence and therefore the intention of the sentence becomes clear whereas, auxiliary verbs have a more subtle function because they often complete a sentence without the reader being aware how they contribute to the structure of the sentence and, without which, the sentence would make little or no sense. This obviously means that they have very different uses. Lexical verbs are more about the meaning whereas auxiliary verbs are more about their grammatical effect. 

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Auxiliary means to help or support something else, to act as a backup, and to be secondary to something more significant. Auxiliary verbs are often called helping verbs.

Lexical means "relating to words." Lexical verbs are the main verbs in a phrase or sentence. To put it simply, lexical verbs are any verbs which are not auxiliary verbs. Lexical verbs carry their own meaning, (full verbs), and therefore can use but don't necessarily need a helping (auxiliary) verb.

  • I was acting the jerk yesterday at the carnival.

"Was" is the auxiliary verb and "acting" is the lexical verb because it describes the state or action in the sentence.

  • If we go to that restaurant, I will want the lobster.

"Will" is the auxiliary and "want" is the lexical verb.

Some examples of auxiliary verbs are: be, is, was, may, have, had, can, could, would, did, might.

Some examples of lexical verbs, which are much more numerous, are: run, think, see, walk, go, pull, make.

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