You are here

The verb 'be'

Level: beginner

The verb be has the following forms:

The verb be
Infinitive form be
Present simple: + I am, I'm
You are, You're
He/She/It is, He/She/It's
We are, we're
You are, you're
They are, they're
? Am I?
Are you?
Is he/she it?
Are we?
Are you?
Are they?
- I am not, I’m not
You are not, You aren’t, You're not
He/She/It is not, He/She/It isn’t, He's not
We are not, We aren’t, We're not
You are not, You aren’t, You're not
They are not, They aren't, They're not

 
Past simple + I was
You were
He/She/It was
We were
You were
They were
? Was I?
Were you?
Was he/she/it?
Were we?
Were you?
Were they?
- I was not, I wasn't
You were not, You weren't
He/She/It was not, He/She/It wasn't
We were not, We weren't
You were not, You weren't
They were not, They weren't
Past participle been
Present perfect has/have been
Past perfect had been
Present participle being
Present continuous am/is/are being
Past continuous was/were being

We use the infinitive form be with modal verbs:

It will be dark soon.
They might be tired.

The verb be is a link verb. It is used:

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

This soup is very tasty.
The children were good.

  • with a prepositional phrase:

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

am, is, are 1
ex. am, is, are 1
am, is, are 2
ex. am, is, are 2
am, is, are, was, were 1
ex. am, is, are, was, were 1
am, is, are, was, were 2
ex. am, is, are, was, were 2

Level: intermediate

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

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

be in continuous and passive forms 1
ex. be in continuous and passive forms 1
be in continuous and passive forms 2
ex. be in continuous and passive forms 2

Level: advanced

We use some nouns with the verb be followed by a that clause:

The problem was that I had no money.
The obvious explanation is that he simply forgot.
The danger is that the whole thing might catch fire.
It's a pity that the children aren't here.
The lucky thing is that nobody was hurt.

Nouns commonly used in this way are:

answer
argument
assertion
belief
claim
explanation
feeling

hope
idea
(a) pity
rule
(a) shame
thing

 

We use some nouns with the verb be followed by a to-infinitive:

The only way is to start all over again.
His answer is to work a bit harder.
Her only hope was to find a new job as soon as possible.
The easiest thing would be to ask your father.

Nouns commonly used in this way are:

answer
decision
hope
idea
intention
promise
thing
way
wish

 

To comment on statements, we use some adjectives with it and the verb be and a that clause or wh-clause:

It's lucky that we met.
It's not clear what happened.
It was amazing how he managed to escape.

Adjectives commonly used in this way are:

awful
bad
clear
extraordinary
funny
good
interesting
lucky
obvious
possible
probable
sad
true
unlikely
be with nouns and adjectives 1
ex. be with nouns and adjectives 1
be with nouns and adjectives 2
ex. be with nouns and adjectives 2

Comments

Hi LearnEnglish Team,

Could you please check the following paragraph and let me know whether everything is written correctly. If there are any changes , please mark them.

"We focus on continuous improvement in our company and would appreciate if you take a little time to fill out our questionnaire. Your Evaluation will help us to further optimize the service and services and increas customer satisfaction.

Thank you.

Hi Dora,

I'm afraid we don't correct users' submissions on LearnEnglish - this is a job for a local teacher where you live.  I know it would be very popular, but that is the problem: if we started doing this then we would have no time for anything else!

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter, got it.

Hi LearnEnglish Team,
Could you explain a bit about idioms, phrases and proverbs to me. I really don´t know how to differentiate them. Thank you.

Hello Dona S,

You can find definitions of and examples for these words by using the Cambridge Dictionaries Online search tool on the right of this page.  Just type in the word!

To find exercises on these areas you can use the search window, which you can also find on the right of the page.  For example, if you type in 'proverb' then you'll see links to activities and pages on that topic, and the same is true with 'idiom'.

'Phrase' is a much more general term.  You can find more information on this page, plus links to different types of phrases at the bottom.

I hope those links are helpful,

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much Peter. Have a nice Weekend!!

Hi LearnEnglish Team,

I have a question for you about the word "whereabouts." For example; When one says "I´m from England then the other asks, "whereabouts in England"? that means he asks what area in England that person comes from? Is this correct or it should be "whereabout in England"? Please explain. Thank you.

Hi LearnEnglish Team,

Could you please explain the difference between "somebody sits in a chair" and "sombody sits on a chair." to me. Thank you.

Hi LearnEnglish Team,

I heard the following sentence in one of your dialogues. "He won´t get lost on a dark night." My question is, WHY should it be "on a dark night," NOT "in a dark night"? Please explain. Thank you.

Hello Dona S,

Prepositions are a tricky area in English, with many small differences in meaning between them, and different prepositions possible in different contexts.  Usually we say 'at night' when we talk about nighttime, but when we add an adjective in a narrative we use 'on a (adjective) night'.  'In' is quite rarely used with 'night', and generally we see it only when we are talking in general and using the definite article ('People are often scared when they wake up in the night') or talking about 'a night' as a length of time ('He finished the job in a night').

As I said, it is complex, but I hope the explanation above help you with it.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages