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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:


(a) pity
(a) shame


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:



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:

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


Dear EnglishTeam,

"what did you do in the holidays?" I found this sentence in my son´s text book. Is the
usage of preposition correct? I just thought of using either "on" or "during" instead. It´s a bit confusing. Please explain.

Thanks n regards,


Hello Dona S,

It is possible to use 'in' here. We usually say on holiday (singular) to mean during my vacation and in the holidays to mean during the time outside of work/school time. You could use 'during' here but not 'on', which we only use with the singular form, as above.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for the explanation Peter.


sentence : the population whose level of income is below xyz figure is considered to be below the poverty line.
> is it better off to remove "to be" from this sentence . i do not understand why is it here in this sentence. or is it necessary

Hello birajmehta,

Alhough the sentence would be intelligible without it, 'to be' is necessary here. Sometimes 'to be' is omitted after 'considered' when a noun follows it (e.g. 'is considered to be a disaster'), but in this case what follows is a phrase -- in such a case, 'to be' is not omitted.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

" What would a traveller visiting a medieval town
expect to find?" ////////// sir i can not understand the meaning of this sentence as well as its construction or structure

Hello birajmehta,

This is actually quite a simple sentence but it looks complex because it has such a long subject. If we replace the subject with 'you' then I think the structure becomes clear.

What would you expect to find?

The subject is 'a traveller visiting a medieval town' and this is a noun followed by a reduced relative clause:

a traveller who is visiting a medieval town


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

hello sir
i have recently read a sentence ;
"convict requested that he be allowed to speak freely."
is it right?
or must be can be used in place of be.

Hello Baahubali,

This sentence is fine. The construction is an example of the subjunctive, which is the base form of the verb ('be') used after certain verbs. 'Request' is one such verb but there are others. These are generally related to certain ways of speaking such as 'insist', 'suggest' and 'demand'.

You can read more about the subjunctive here.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir,

Please correct me, am I right?

in a nut shell, We use "be" verbs to describe a "characteristic property it has or possession" about anything we want represent.

Else, give me some piece of advice about the circumstances to use "be" verbs.

Thanks & Regards,
Abdul haq.