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
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Submitted by Andrew international on Tue, 02/02/2016 - 17:20

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Dear Sir Please tell me which sentence is correct. Being a rainy day I didn't go to school. It being a rainy day I didn't go to school. Being a poor boy he couldn't do higher studies. He being a poor boy couldn't do higher studies. Thank you.

Submitted by Peter M. on Wed, 03/02/2016 - 06:32

In reply to by Andrew international

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Hello Andrew International,

Being a rainy day, I didn't go to school. - not correct; it suggests that 'I' am a rainy day

It being a rainy day I didn't go to school. - correct

Being a poor boy he couldn't do higher studies. - correct

He, being a poor boy, couldn't do higher studies. - correct, but required commas

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you very much for your explanation. Please tell me whether the following sentences are correct. He, being a poor boy, couldn't do higher studies = He was a poor boy so he couldn't do higher studies./ He is a poor boy so he couldn't do higher studies.(He is still alive)

Hello andrew international,

Both of those sentences are correct. In the first sentence the boy may be alive or dead, though the sentence is about his past. The second sentence is about the present.

 


Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zagrus on Sat, 23/01/2016 - 18:13

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Hi, Which sentence is grammatically correct: " when is giving charity publicly better? and when giving it secretly better?" or " when is giving charity publicly better, and when giving it secretly better?" Regards, Abdullah

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 25/01/2016 - 08:35

In reply to by zagrus

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Hello zagrus,

The only different I can see is the positon of the question mark, which should come at the end of the sentence. However, we would usually add 'is' to the second part of the sentence:

When is giving charity publicly better, and when is giving it secretly better?"

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zagrus on Fri, 22/01/2016 - 07:39

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Hi, I know that the phrase " someone is into something" means what field a person works in. For example, " I am into education" means I work in the field of education. However, I heard that it can also be used to say what a person is interested in. For instance, " He is into football". My question is: How can I determine which meaning is meant in case this phrase is used to have both meanings as sometimes both meanings can be correct. For example, if I say " I am into football" how would the listener know whether I mean I am working in the field of football, or I am just interested in football? Best wishes, Abdullah

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 23/01/2016 - 08:07

In reply to by zagrus

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Hello Abdullah,

As far as I know, 'I am into X' only means that X interests me – it doesn't refer to a field that I work in. You could perhaps say 'I'm in computers' to refer to working with computers, but notice that is 'in' instead of 'into'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sarun_5007 on Tue, 19/01/2016 - 12:47

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Hello, Can you help me In which below sentence is correct to express the past event? Example: 1. I was leave on 1st Jan 2. I leaved on 1st Jan

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 19/01/2016 - 18:38

In reply to by sarun_5007

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Hello sarun_5007,

Neither of these is correct. 'Leave' is an irregular verb and the past form is 'left'. The correct sentence would be 'I left on the 1st of January'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alexia2005 on Wed, 06/01/2016 - 21:17

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Hey teacher, I am confused with I and I am .For me it is the same because in our language we do not have verb be.Always I +VERB .Please help me for that.

Hello alexia2005,

That's a quite a general question and it's hard for me to give an answer! What specifically is difficult for you - perhaps you could provide an example sentence, and we'll try to help you.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dona S on Wed, 11/11/2015 - 20:49

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Hi English Team, Please explain to me the difference between "how´s the weather"? and "What´s the weather like"? Thanks n regards, Dona

Hello Dona S,

There's not always necessarily a difference between these two questions, but the first one could be asking for someone's opinion more than the second one. For example, if I asked many of my Spanish friends 'How's the weather?' and it's raining, they'd be likely to say 'bad', even though I might be happy about rain. 'What's the weather like?' is more likely to elicit a description of the weather (without evaluation or opinion). But often, this difference is not there, so please don't think this difference is always inherent in the two question forms.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Diakay Phan on Tue, 20/10/2015 - 15:54

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hello !! can you help me??? The university of wollongong is one of the most dynamic universities’s teaching and research in Australia. It is famous worldwide as good facilities, faculty excellence, enthusiasm, has much experience in teaching. The university of wollongong is the place where provide very good service with reasonable price. We can get acquainted with many good friends. Compelling scholarship policy help me fix my mistake about grammar... thank you very much

Hello Diakay Phan,

I'm afraid we don't correct texts like this one – we are simply too small a team with too much work to be able to offer this service.

If you have a specific question about a specific sentence, however, please ask us, telling us as much as you can about what you're uncertain of, and we'll do our best to help you.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Fernando4287 on Tue, 06/10/2015 - 07:51

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Hello, why into the section: Gradable adjective at the sentence number 4 there is written: I'm a bit on late,AREN'T I?... Is it a mistake? In this case hours do you write it?

Submitted by Dona S on Mon, 21/09/2015 - 10:14

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Hi English Team, What´s the correct meanning of "where are you up to," as I have heard it somewhere. Thanks & regards,

Hello Dona,

That doesn't make sense to me with 'where', but 'what are you up to?' is an extremely common way of asking what someone is doing. You can see a definition and examples in the dictionary by searching for 'be up to sth' (sth=something).

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dona S on Thu, 17/09/2015 - 11:03

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Hi English Team, Please explain to me the difference between "your value" and "value of you." Thanks n regards,

Hi Dona S,

I can't think of an instance when I'd use 'value of you' – 'your value' is what I'd say. If you've seen the former used somewhere, please give the context and we'll try to explain it.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dona S on Wed, 16/09/2015 - 11:11

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Hi English Team Please look at the two sentences below; 1. I had too much coffee. 2. I had too much "of " coffee. What´s the correct sentence or are they both correct? Please explain to me how to use "of " in these kind of sentences correctly. Thanks n regards,

Hello Dona S,

1 is correct and 2 is not correct. You might want to listen to section 7 of Elementary Podcasts Series 2 Episode 3, in which Tom the Teacher explains 'too' and 'very' a bit, but in general, 'too much' is used with uncount nouns and 'too much of' only with singular count nouns, e.g. 'I had too much of the birthday cake'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by mahbub160 on Wed, 09/09/2015 - 19:20

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please explain about to have verb...

Hello mahbub160,

I'm afraid this is too general a question for us. Please search the site a bit more (see our Search box on the right) and then if you have a more specific question, you're welcome to ask it.

Best wishes,
KIrk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by akatsuki on Mon, 31/08/2015 - 10:52

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What does the usage of 'be' mean? Why is 'be' here? Peace be on you. Glorified and exalted be He (God) above all that they associate with Him.

Submitted by naaka on Thu, 27/08/2015 - 10:13

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Hello there, This's been a hard work for them. It's been a long day. Could you please tell me 's' is 'has' or 'is' there? Thank you.
Hello there, Please could you give me an answer for this.I asked this question 20 august and again asked 27 but still I haven't got an answer for this one question. Everyday I come and search the answer for my question. I know you are busy and all the other things. But please be kind enough to answer a question within a one month at least. Thank you.

Hello naaka,

We do not answer all questions which are posed. Sometimes we simply do not have time and do not go back to questions once a certain amount of time has passed as we constantly get new questions.

The 's here is 'has' and forms part of a present perfect form ('has been'). However, we do not contract verbs after 'this', so the first sentence is not correct in any case.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by naaka on Thu, 20/08/2015 - 07:17

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Hello there, This's been hard work for them. It's been a long day. Could you please explain what does 's' mean. Is it 'is' or 'has' in above 2 sentences. Thank you.

Submitted by Dona S on Fri, 26/06/2015 - 19:35

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Dear English Team, Please explaín to me the difference between "fed up with" and "fed up of". Thanks n regards

Hello Dona S,

Traditionally, the correct form was 'with' and 'of' is more recent. However, in modern English both are used interchangeably and neither is considered incorrect, thought 'of' is less common in American English, I believe.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dona S on Thu, 25/06/2015 - 21:13

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Hi English Team, Please explain to me how to use "think of" and "think about" also "dream of" and "dream about". Thanks n regards

Hello Dona S,

'Think of' usually means 'imagine' or 'invent'. For example:

I can't think of a better example!

Think of a number, any number.

'Think about' usually means 'consider' or 'reflect on'. For example:

I'll think about your offer and let you know my answer.

I can't stop thinking about her!

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sabago on Sun, 07/06/2015 - 19:01

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can you explain " it had to be different" in clear way with examples.

Hello sabago,

'had to be' is a form of 'to have to + verb', which is used to indicate obligation or necessity. Another way to say this is 'it needed to be different'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by djdharma7 on Wed, 20/05/2015 - 18:06

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Thank you The LearnEnglish Team for made thise website for learn English easily & your support to all student who want to learn English... nice i'm very like thise website... thank you sir Dharma

Submitted by Dona S on Sat, 28/03/2015 - 20:27

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Hello English Team, Please explain to me how to recognise separable and inseparable phrasal verbs correctly?

Hello Dona,

I'm afraid there is no way to look at a phrasal verb and know what kind it is. You must learn each phrasal verb and remember how to use it. Many dictionaries, such as ours, do not explicitly state if phrasal verbs are separable or not, but by looking at the example sentences, you can often tell that way.

An alternative would be to get a phrasal verb dictionary, which should provide this information. You could also search the internet for 'phrasal verbs separable inseparable' - I expect you could find some lists online as well.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Darshanie on Wed, 25/03/2015 - 11:20

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Are has, have and had, coming under the verb "BE"? I am not very sure. Please advise. Also If there is a sentence to choose correct grammar: The girl..............(be) living in London since 2012. Could we choose "has been " as the answer, with the clue within brackets. or not? Many thanks, D

Hello Darshanie,

The words 'has', 'have' and 'had' can be auxiliary verbs which are used to form perfect forms with all verbs, including 'be'. For example, to make the present perfect of 'be' we use 'have been' or 'has been'.

In your example 'has been' would be correct.

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by tya on Thu, 19/03/2015 - 21:07

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Can i know the answer Bordox (2009) suggested that humans _____ (be) able to live on Mars by the year 2050 Many studies _____________ (carry out) on the effects of carbon dioxide on our environment.

Submitted by Dona S on Tue, 17/03/2015 - 10:45

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Hi LearnEnglish Team, I have a doubt about these two sentences. Please explain which one is gramatically very correct. (1) I go out once a week. (2) I go once a week out. Awaiting your response. Thank you

Hello Dona,

Intransitive phrasal verbs such as 'go out' are non-separable, i.e. the particle 'out' is never separated from 'go'. Therefore, only sentence 1 is correct.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team