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:

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

sir,

can we use verb TO BE in present, past, future perfect continuous tense.
if yes, can you please quote one one example with meaning of the same.

if not, than can you please quote the reason of the same.

regards

Hello Deviljin,

Your question is slightly ambiguous, but I'm going to assume you mean the continous form of each of the tenses you mentioned (present continuous, past continuous etc).

The answer to your question is yes, the verb be can be used in all of those forms, though quite specific contexts are required for some of them.

 

  • present continuous: I'm being as patient as I can.
  • past continuous: I was just being polite, nothing more.
  • future perfect continous: You want me to be patient? I've been patient for weeks now! By the end of this week I'll have been being patient for nearly a month!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much Peter sir for replying.

And i am so sorry for creating ambiguity.

Actually i meant to ask that can we use verb BE in perfect continuous form.

Actually my school teacher told me that the verb BE cannot be used in perfect continuous form.

When i asked him that , is this sentence correct. (he has been being nice to me ).

My teacher said , it is wrong.

Even i searched the whole internet, but i could not find a chart showing usage of verb BE in all tenses.

If there is any grammar book or any other source that you know of, containing a chart showing the usage of verb BE in all tenses, would you mind sharing it. So that i can show it to my teacher and further discuss it with him.

And sir, i am a huge fan of yours and other teachers' of this website.

Thank you so much

Regards

Deviljin (raj)

Hello again Deviljin,

I'm not aware of any such table but I'm sure you can find something like that somewhere on the internet with a search for 'English verb conjugation be' or similar. However, things like this are not particularly useful, in my view, as they do not connect the form to its meaning in context.

 

A form may be theoretically possible but extremely unlikely as it requires an extremely unlikely context, which is what your teacher had in mind, I'm sure. Although 'will have been being' is grammatically possible and although I cam imagine a context in which it might be used, I don't think I have ever actually used it in my life as the context is so specific and unlikely.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher,
I want to write something my
processes paragraph assignment.But I can't decide to write that sentence that I wrote.
'The last step is unless you find the information, you can also type some phrases.'

If my sentence is wrong, why teacher could you explain me? And What can I write with the same meaning

Hi Nevı,

It's hard to be sure if our suggestion is exactly what you want as we can't see the broader context, but I think you need 'if' rather than 'unless' here, along with a couple of other changes:

The last option if you have still not found the information is to search for some phrases.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teacher
I would like to ask, in this sentence :
The jacket had a purpose, and so did the boy. His purpose in life WAS TO travel ,and, after two years of walking the Andalusian terrain, he knew all the cities of the region. Quoted from the Alchemist.
What does it mean "WAS TO" in this situation ?
Thank you !

Hello Jack,

We use the infinitive to describe goals or intentions, so the construction here is as follows:

[subject] + [be] + [to infinitive]

His purpose + was + to travel...

Here are some similar sentences:

My aim is to win the match!

Our goal is to finish this project before the weekend.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks teacher :D !

Hello, Kirk, Peter, and Jonathan,

"Students are to write a rough draft of their wiki update and e-mail it to the teacher. She adds it to each student’s electronic portfolios. The teacher reads the updated version and gives them feedback"

In the above sentence, 'Students are to write a rough draft...' What is the meaning, its tense and what is it called in the grammar?
Thanks for the answer in advanced.

Pages