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The Operator in English Grammar

Operators are words that facilitate the expression of a negation, interrogatives, and emphasis in the English language. Operators function within verb phrases functioning as predicates. Only one grammatical form can perform the function of operator in English. The one grammatical form that can function as the operator is the verb. Only the verb do, sometimes referred to as the do-operator, can function as an operator.

The conjugations of the verb do are as follows:

Base Simple Present Simple Past Present Participle Past Participle
do do, does did doing done

The do-operator is also sometimes referred to as the dummy do.

The Operator for Negation

Negation is the grammatical operation whereby a proposition is replaced by one that states the opposite. An affirmative form expresses the validity or truth of a basic assertion. A negative form expresses the falsity of a basic assertion. The first method of negation in the English language is verb phrase negation. Verb phrases in English can be negated by inserting the negative adverb not after the first auxiliary verb of the verb phrase. For verb phrases without an auxiliary verb, the operator do also appears before the negative adverb not. For example:

The child ate some cookies.
The child did not eat some cookies.

She watches my daughter.
She does not watch my daughter.

I enjoy football.
I do not enjoy football.

Note that the do-operator expresses the tense of the verb phrase in negated constructions.

The Operator for Interrogation

Interrogative constructions allow speakers to ask questions. To form an interrogative sentence from a declarative sentence, invert the subject and the first auxiliary verb of the verb phrase functioning as a predicate. For verb phrases without an auxiliary verb, invert the operator do with the subject. For example:

She likes reading Shakespeare.
Does she like reading Shakespeare?

The gardener watered the pumpkins.
Did the gardener water the pumpkins?

Some students meet in lounge after class.
Do some students meet in the lounge after class?

Note that the do-operator expresses the tense of the verb phrase in interrogative constructions.

The Operator for Emphasis

The do-operator also expresses emphasis within verb phrases in the simple present and simple past. To emphasize an action or state, insert the operator do before the verb. For example:

I love Doritos dipped in mashed potatoes.
I do love Doritos dipped in mashed potatoes!

My daughter claims that she washed the dishes.
My daughter claims that she did wash the dishes.

He works at the company.
He does work at the company.

Note that the do-operator expresses the tense of the verb phrase in emphatic constructions.

The only grammatical form that can function as the operator in the English language is the verb, specifically the verb do, or the do-operator.

References

Brinton, Laurel J. & Donna M. Brinton. 2010. The linguistic structure of Modern English, 2nd edn. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kilby, David. 1984. Descriptive syntax and the English verb. Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm.
Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004. Meaning and the English verb. Harlow, English: Pearson Longman.

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