The verb be has the following forms:

Present simple: Affirmative I am
You are
He/She/It is
We are
You are
They are
  Question form: Am I?
Are you?
Is he/she it?
Are we?
Are you?
Are they?
  Negative: I am not/ I’m not
You are not/ aren’t
He/She/It is not/ isn’t
We are not/aren’t
You are not/aren’t
They are not/aren't
Past simple   I was
You were
He/She/It was
We were
You were
They were
The past participle:   been.  
Present perfect:   has/have been  
Past perfect:   had been  

 The verb be is used in the following patterns:

1. with a noun:

My mother is a teacher.
Bill Clinton was the president of the US.

2. with an adjective:

This soup is very tasty.
The children were good.

2.1 with the -ing form to make the continuous aspect

We were walking down the street.
Everything was wet. It had been raining for hours.

2.2 with the -ed form to make the passive voice

The house was built in 1890.
The street is called Montagu Street.
This car was made in Japan.

3. with a prepositional phrase:

John and his wife are from Manchester.
The flowers are on the table.








I disagree with Paul that this is archaic. In American English, this is how it would be said, so you may have been reading an American newspaper. I'm American and I would say, "God requires that we be holy." I could also say, "God requires us to be holy", which voids the present subjunctive in this case. There are plenty of other common examples in American English that one may not hear in British English too often.

For example:

"It is my fervent wish that she marry me." ("she marry")

"God forbid I be working." ("God forbid" and "I be working"; in this instance, if I were to say this, it would be sarcasm. For instance: if my mother were trying to convince me to take off work to come to her dinner that night and I told her I had to work and she persisted, I might say this sarcastically to her.)

"I pray that her marriage be a happy one." ("her marriage be")

"I shall continue to wait here in hopes that he find a way to get here." ("he find")

"We will do this on one condition: that we be paid an additional sum for our time." ("we be paid")

"The game will most likely be cancelled in the even that it rain." ("it rain")

"Whether it be raining, snowing, or a beautiful, sunny day, I'm going to London tomorrow." ("Whether it be raining")

"I'm preparing supper now in order that it be ready by in an hour." ("it be")

"I will do it so that it be done correctly." ("it be done")

In the song, "America the Beautiful", there's a far more archaic line of the subjunctive that is not used very often in American English anymore except in this song: "Till all success be nobleness and ev'ry gain divine!" ("success be")

Most of the time in American English, "till" and "until" do not take the present subjunctive anymore; however, one will still see the past subjunctive here and after other subordinating conjunctions in American English: " I wouldn't do the work on his house until I were sure that I would be paid or unless I were paid ahead of time." ("I were sure" and "I were paid")

These are just some examples of the many that one may find in American English. In American legal opinions, especially those that are about 40 years old or older, there are many instances of the present subjunctive (and the past subjunctive) following subordinating conjunctions.

Hello Nick2004,

I think the examples you provide actually illustrate the point I was making. The relevant Merriam Webster definition of archaic is as follows:

having the characteristics of the language of the past and surviving chiefly in specialized uses - an archaic word


'Specialized uses' would include legal language, religious language and similar, and it is in these contexts that we find the subjunctive used. We very rarely hear the subjunctive used in everyday conversation other than after certain verbs, as I said in my original reply. Even with those verbs the subjunctive is slowly disappearing and traditional constructions such as '...suggest he go...' are being supplanted by constructions without the subjunctive (...'suggest he goes...').

While it is possible to use the subjunctive in the way you demonstrated in your examples, I think it is a choice which the speaker makes when they wish to give their speech or writing an old-fashioned or deliberately literary tone, which fits precisely with the definition of archaic above.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello PaolaO26,

This is an example of archaic language which we can find in old literature but which is rarely used in modern English. The form is the subjunctive and it is the same as the base form of the verb. In modern English it is rare but does occur after certain verbs. For example:

I suggested that he go.

She insisted that Paul be told the truth.

However, these are quite rare. In old forms of English the subjunctive was more common and was used after more verbs, including 'require' as in your example.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, Sire!
I've been troubled with my writings lately and I have problem with this sentence,

"You were the only light that shone very brightly."

Is it grammatically correct? Or do I have to put V-ing after were.. Or what term should I use when I'm using "were"? Thank you so much!

Hello stdeandra,

The sentence is grammatically correct, but whether or not it is appropriate will depend upon the context. You could say '...the only light shining...' and ' brightly' but these are stylistic choices, not grammatical questions.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

1= tools of the palaeolithic types continued to be made . so sir i can not understand why is here sentence used = to be = word in sentence.

Hello birajmehta,

The construction here is a passive form of the infinitive:

continue to do (continue + to infinitive)

continue to be done (continue + passive infinitive)

You can read more about passive forms on this page.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Should I test the feature to see whether the class will get cancelled after the 11th minute would pass?

Is this grammatically correct ? How could I express myself better in this situation? I know about the conditionals but I am not sure if I can use it in this situation or if I can I don't know how.

Hello Sash,

I'm actually not sure what you're trying to say here. The grammatical form you are using is not correct as we would not mix 'will' and 'would' in this way, but I don't understand the sentence you are trying to say, so it's hard to suggest how to say it. If you can explain what you mean then we can try to help.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

I am trying to understand which is the subject +passive verb+ infinitive in this sentence
"A large number of contemporary Egyptian traditions are said to have their origons in very ancient times"
Please can you help me?