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:


(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


Hello Sash,

Certain verbs in English are followed by the structure [to + verb], also known as the infinitive form. There is no rule for which verbs operate like this; you simply have to remember them. You can see some of the most common examples on this page.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much, Mr. Peter. I thought that was the case. Thanks

Hello. Do these sentences have difference: I was told.., I have been told..?
Thank you.

Hello English Team,

Kindly explain to me the usage of "at the beginning/in the beginning" and "at the end/in the end."


Hello Dona S,

I'm afraid this is too long an answer for us to deal with in the comments section. There are simply too many examples to list. Often both are correct and in general I would say that 'at the beginning' is more common where there is a choice.

'At the beginning' usually refers to a time or place; 'in the beginning' carries more of a meaning of 'at first' and suggests that something changes later on.

If you have a concrete example in mind then we will be happy to comment, of course.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for the explanation Peter. I´ll try to read some examples and figure out how they are used in different situations.

Thank you once again.

Regards, Dona

Sir in a sentence ' justice should not only be done but it must seen to be done, I cannot understand properly the usage of ' to be' form. I searched in Internet extensively with no use. Please explain in what circumstances we used ' to be form like I want to be lawyer, military operation to be conducted so on. Thanks

Hello raji,

'Justice should not only be done but it must seen to be done' is not grammatical, so I'm not surprised you don't understand it. I suppose it's meant to say 'it must be seen to be done', in which case the idea is that it's important that people see the authorities carrying out justice. In other words, it's important for justice to be carried out, but it's also important that people see that justice is being carried out.

The infinitive form has so many uses I can't possibly explain them all here, but I can point you in the right direction for the two you ask about. In 'I want to be a lawyer', the infinitive is used after the verb 'want'. This is a very common use, and one that you can see explained (and with examples) in the dictionary.

In 'a military operation to be conducted', which is a more uncommon use of the infinitive, it is being used to indicate a planned or expected future event. Note that here the infinitive ('to be conducted') is passive, whereas above ('to be a lawyer') it was active.

In general, it's important that you provide the context for the sentences you ask about and also tell us how you understand them or how you think about them. We're happy to help people with difficult points from time to time, but I'm afraid we're not able to provide personalised tutorials. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


Sir please explain 'To Be' forms with explanation sentence of 'justice seen to be done'. Why and for what reasons 'to be' form was used in this sentence