The Emphatic 'Do' in English Grammar

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The use of a form of the verb do (do, does, or did) to add emphasis to an affirmative sentence. The emphatic do is far more common in speech than in formal written English.

Unlike ordinary auxiliary verbs, which are typically unstressed in speech, emphatic do is almost always stressed


  • "I know it doesn't look like it, but I really do work hard around here. It's just that I'm so disorganized that I never finish anything I start."​ (Lillian B. Rubin, Worlds of Pain: Life in the Working-Class Family. Basic Books, 1992)
  • "Now, I don't speak Chinese, but I do speak a little Polish, a little Korean, and a few words in half a dozen other languages. This comes from my living in New York City where I encountered people from every nationality on a regular basis." (Damon Vickers, The Day After the Dollar Crashes. Wiley, 2011)
  • "If you start asking questions and the guy runs away, that's exactly what you want. It sets you up to meet someone who does want what you want." (Lauren Durant, quoted by Nikitta A. Foston in "9 Questions to Ask Your New Lover." Ebony, March 2004)
  • "I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try to visit those in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity." ​(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from a sermon delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, on February 4, 1968. Voices of Freedom, ed. by Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer. Bantam, 1990)
  • "'Do be quiet, Larry!' she said impatiently. 'Don't you hear me talking to Daddy?'"
    (Frank O'Connor, "My Oedipus Complex," 1952)
  • "What a swell person you are to back me up the way you do on this job! We do do things together, don't we?" (Letter fromLorena Hickok to Eleanor Roosevelt, December 5, 1933. Empty Without You: The Intimate Letters Of Eleanor Roosevelt And Lorena Hickok, ed. by Roger Streitmatter. The Free Press, 1998)

Do as a Stand-In Auxiliary

"[I]n the absence of an auxiliary, a form of do can be added to carry the stress:

He polishes his car every week. → He DOES polish his car every week.
He polished his car yesterday. → He DID polish his car yesterday.

When the do transformation is applied to a verb in the past tense, such as polished, the do will carry the past marker, as it does in negative statements and questions. Note that the resulting emphatic verb is did polish; the main verb is the base form, polish.

"In its role as a stand-in auxiliary, do has no effect on meaning. It merely acts as kind of operator that enables us to add emphasis to sentences not containing auxiliaries or be and to transform them into negatives and questions." (Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, Understanding English Grammar, 5th ed. Allyn and Bacon, 1998)

The Lighter Side of Emphasizing

"The following advertisement illustrates the possibility speakers have of assigning focus to practically any item. Some of these utterances could be interpreted as contrastive, others simply as emphatic.

DO you know what kind of a day I've had?
Do YOU know what kind of a day I've had?
Do you KNOW what kind of a day I've had?
Do you know WHAT kind of a day I've had?
Do you know what KIND of a day I've had?
Do you know what kind of a DAY I've had?
Do you know what kind of a day I'VE had?
Do you know what kind of a day I've HAD?
Well, DO you?"

(Angela Downing and Philip Locke, English Grammar: A University Course, 2nd ed. Routledge, 2006)