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 to everyone,
When does an intensifier becomes pleonasm? How does one make sure that using intensifiers do not lead into redundancy?
Kind Regards,
Jay

Hello Jay -
 
That's a very complex question, and not one easily answered in formal linguistic terms, or with strict rules. Instead, it is more a question of stylistics and expressive range. Spoken language is much more tolerant of redundancy than written language – 'It's very, very good' is perfectly acceptable spoken English, for example, and in some kinds of writing, it would be acceptable to use redundancy to give emphasis. On the other hand, in academic writing, you would avoid this kind of redundancy – although there are some set idioms (“null and void”) which are still acceptable. In short, you cannot make sure that using intensifiers does not become redundant without considering the specific context and the way native speakers would use the language in that context.
 
Hope that helps!
 
Regards
 
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

it helps me alot
 

It is brief and useful . Thanks .

How different is the TO BE VERB from the BE VERB.

Thanks.

Hello Ebenezer!
 
It is not a different verb - just a different form of the verb, called the infinitive (or sometimes the to + infinitive). You can read about it here.
 
Regards
 
Jeremy Bee
The LearnEnglish Team

When using several singular nouns in a sentence (for example a canteen, a shrine room and a library )what is the be verb we should use after the word "There" ?
Is it 'There is a canteen, a shrine room and a library.' or
     'There are a canteen, a shrine room and a library'?

Dear Nish,
We don't use 'are' with singular nouns. Use 'a' with singular nouns.
Ex:
There is a canteen in front of the staff room.
There is a pen on the table.
Regards.
Chandima

Hello nish7685,
The most common usage when the first noun is singular is 'there is...'. This is a slightly grey area, however, and some dialects might follow different usage.
Best wishes,
 
Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

Just remember that "there is" refers to a singular person, place or thing while "there are" refers to plural persons, places, or things. That is to say in standard English. There are dialects that do no adhere to this general rule.

To add to the confusion sometimes "there be" may be used in some dialects, though in the standard, when used at all, it usually follow the word "that" to give a subjunctive meaning.

This peculiarity of the verb to be is because the modern verb, as in many languages throughout the world is a composite of 2 or more different verbs.

Compare French "être" which is a merger of old french "ester" from Latin "stare" (to stand) and "estre" from Latin "essere" (to be), which in in turn was a composite verb.

For the etymoligical history of the modern "to be" see the following:
http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=be&allowed_in_frame=0

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