be */*/*/

strong UK [biː] / US [bɪ] weak UK [bɪ] verb
Word forms "be":
present tense I am you/we/they are he/she/it is present participle being past tense I/he/she/it was you/we/they were past participle been
Summary:

Be can have many different forms depending on its subject and on its tense: present tense → I am
→ he/she/it is → we/you/they are
past tense → I/he/she/it was → we/you/they were
past participlebeen
present participlebeing
Be can be used in the following ways: - as an auxiliary verb in progressive verb tenses or in passive forms (followed by a present participle or a past participle): The train is leaving. A window was broken. - as a verb (followed by an infinitive with "to"): She is to marry Lord Stanhope. All books are to be returned by Friday. The party was to be a surprise. - as a linking verb (followed by an adjective or noun complement): Dad was ill. His wife is a doctor. (followed by an adverb or preposition): The children are in bed. Questions and negatives that are formed without "do": Are you busy? The book was not expensive.
Be is often used in question tags: You weren't listening, were you? It's cold, isn't it?
Usage note:
In conversation or informal writing am can be shortened to 'm, is can be shortened to 's, and are can be shortened to 're: I'm so glad you came. Kay's still at the office. We're leaving tomorrow. These short forms can be followed by not to make negative sentences: I'm not surprised. She's not very strong. You're not helping. Negative forms can also be shortened: am not can be shortened to aren't (but only in questions), is not can be shortened to isn't, are not can be shortened to aren't, was not can be shortened to wasn't, and were not can be shortened to weren't: I'm next, aren't I? Tom isn't coming. They weren't very nice.
1) [auxiliary verb] used in progressive verb tenses used for forming the progressive tenses of verbs, that are used for showing actions that are in progress at a particular point in time

Is everyone listening?

I'm studying English Literature.

We were having breakfast when Terry phoned.

2) [auxiliary verb] used in passive verb forms used for forming the passive form of verbs

Her husband was killed in a car accident.

The orchestra will be conducted by David Norton.

3) [linking verb] used in descriptions used for giving information about someone or something, by giving their name, job, position etc, describing them, or saying where they are

Calvin Schultz is our Marketing Director.

He wants to be an actor when he leaves school.

It was a cold frosty morning.

Baltimore is not far from Washington.

Tom's from a small town in Canada.

Who's in charge of the Finance Department?

Nancy is tall and very thin.

4) [linking verb] used for talking about behaviour used for saying how someone behaves, or for telling them how to behave

Be quiet! I can't hear what they're saying.

He's just being silly again – pay no attention.

5) [intransitive] formal existence to exist

a way of life that has long since ceased to be


Cultural note:
The most famous speech in Shakespeare's Hamlet begins with the words "To be or not to be…", in which Hamlet considers the possibility of killing himself.

being... — used for giving an explanation of something

Being younger than the others, I always had to wear their old clothes.

have been to... — used for saying that someone has gone to a place and returned

Have you ever been to Venice?

Where have you been?

I've been to London.

there is/are etc — used for saying that someone or something is in a particular place; used for saying that someone or something exists or that something happens

There's a woman in the other room who wants to talk to you.

How many people were there at the concert?

There is a small problem that we need to discuss.

There have already been four serious accidents on this stretch of road.

were someone/something to do somethingformal used in a conditional clause for describing a situation that is not real or that is very unlikely to happen

Were Shakespeare to return today, he would be amazed to find his plays being studied in schools.


English dictionary. 2014.

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.