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 it appears I found this question-answer page when originally typing in VERB BE IN ENGLISH, not specifying British Council, but I don't seem to find the same section for other questions when typing British Council so how do I get direct to the Q&A page ?

Hi dupontm,

We don't have a specific Q&A page for the site but most pages have a comments section where it is possiblet to ask questions. We try to answer as many questions as we can but we are a small team and we don't offer online lessons!

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

is it possible or not to use "were" like this : we were lived here in 2015. ?

Hello aa,

The sentence you ask about is an example of a passive verb form. It is formed correctly, but because 'live' is an intransitive verb, it is not used in the passive – therefore that sentence doesn't make any sense.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

thank you so much sir. what about if we used it like this sir :
"if we were lived here, our cat would not die like that."
many thanks for your answer.

Hello aa,

The correct form here would be 'If we lived here, our cat would not die like that'. The tense needed is past simple, which does not require 'were' unless it is a passive form, as Kirk said.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

I want to know whether this statement, " I WANT TO ADMIT MYSELF INTO A COLLEGE", is correct. Do favour me....

Hello Ali Azam Russell,

No, 'admit' doesn't generally take a reflexive pronoun and certainly not in this context. I'd suggest something like 'I'd like to be admitted to a college' or 'I'd like to get into a college' as alternatives.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Nice to see you all....
What is the specific difference between Finite Verb and Principal Verb? Give some examples also....

Hello Ali Azam Russell,

'Finite' and 'nonfinite' are terms that we don't generally use here, as they're a bit specialised for most learners. I'd suggest you check the Wikipedia article on Finite verbs for more information on that. A principal verb generally refers to the main verb of a sentence or clause. For example, in 'I haven't seen my best friend in ages', 'see' is the principal verb, which is in a present perfect form – 'have' is the auxiliary verb and 'seen' is the past participle form of the main verb 'see'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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