At first I thought that there was only such a thing as lexical do and periphrastic, but recently I stumbled upon something else (unfortunately I do not recall what it was called). Whatever be the case, it seems that do can be used for quite a lot of grammatical things (do-support being one). Could someone give some of these roles do can play?

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    Good question. There are indeed several different functions for the English auxiliary verb do, just as there are for all English auxiliary verbs. – jlawler Jan 18 '14 at 22:12
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    I created some new tags for this question. I feel "do" has enough different meanings, usages, and subtleties to warrant a tag all its own but this site isn't just for English. I also think the "syntax" tag is a better one for this question than the "grammar" tag so I've changed that too. – hippietrail Jan 25 '14 at 19:17

In English, certainly the most common use of do is Do-Support.
DS is invoked whenever a construction requiring an auxiliary verb (like Question or Negative):

  • S: Bill is coming today Ques: Is Bill coming today? Neg: Bill isn't coming today.

gets applied to a verb chain without an auxiliary verb in it already; i.e, a bare main verb:

  • S: Bill came today Ques: Did Bill come today? Neg: Bill didn't come today.

As I used to tell my students, if you don't have an auxiliary verb,
you have to go out and get one, and the one that you get is do.

Do-Support applies to any verb that's not an auxiliary, no matter what it means.

This is not true, however, of a different kind of do, called "Action do" or Act for short.
(See John R. Ross, 1972. "Act", in Davidson & Harman, Semantics of Natural Languages )
This is the do that is the pro-verb for any active verb (just like a pronoun is for nouns),
but which doesn't work with stative verbs like own.

This distinguishes Act do from Do-Support do:

  • Bill raked the yard, didn't he? (Do-Support do, active verb)
  • Bill use to own that house, didn't he? (Do-Support do, stative verb)
  • Raking the yard was not pleasant for Bill, but he did it. (Act do, active verb)
  • *Owning the house was not pleasant for Bill, but he did it. (Act do, stative verb - therefore ungrammatical, whence the asterisk)

Plus any number of other uses for do (Why don't we do it in the road? - both do's, no waiting)

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    Excellent answer. I'd just like to add that do can be inserted to contrastively focus the polarity of an assertion, e.g. A: John didn't go to shops. B: That's wrong. John DID go to the shops". Maybe one could analyse this as another example of do-support - an auxiliary must be present to host the contrastive stress, and so do is inserted. – P Elliott Jan 18 '14 at 23:36
  • Yes, emphatic do is another. I was happy to turn off the tap, though, since it wasn't clear which phenomenon the OQ was referring to. – jlawler Jan 18 '14 at 23:38
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    A good point, friends. Thank you for the explanation. – Yellow Sky Jan 18 '14 at 23:58
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    Emphatic do has already been mentioned by P Elliott; and they're all periphrastic since they're all auxiliary verbs. "Periphrastic" is not a name, but a description; it means "paraphrased with auxiliaries", so the entire English verb phrase can be called periphrastic. It's not a useful term here. If you've come across a construction some folks call "periphrastic do", trot out an example and we'll identify it. – jlawler Jan 19 '14 at 16:07
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    Which is why I prefer to call it "Do-Support do"; I'm a category Splitter by inclination and never trust official category Lumps. – jlawler Jan 19 '14 at 18:31

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