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

Hi teacher, could you explain the use of "be to" in the sentences below?

1. How is the programme to be financed?

2. I formed the opinion that he was not to be trusted.

Thanks in advance.

Hi cms10,

There are two different meanings of to be here.

1. Describing future events that are certain to happen. Your first sentence means the financing of the programme has not begun yet (i.e. it's in the future), but we want to ask about the plans for it (i.e. what has already been decided about the financing). This is quite formal in style. Here are some more examples of this meaning. 

  • The company is to make an announcement tomorrow.
  • Construction work is to finish before the end of the year.

 

2. Giving instructions. If I say He is not to be trusted, it's an instruction or an obligation. I'm telling myself or someone else not to trust that person. Here are some more examples.

  • You are to submit your report by 5 p.m.
  • It was a wonderful day, never to be forgotten.

This is also quite formal in style.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,

Could you explain these
sentences.

We know that some verbs are
followed by infinitives.

1. You seem to be nervous.
2. People tend to be happier if
they are in a long-term
relationship.
3. For example, John’s
book was thought to be a
contraction of John, his book.
4.it was thought to be he.

Sir, my problem is that I was confused with the meaning of " be". What does the " to be" mean in above sentences. Does " to be" mean existence of something or " to be" = to live or the "to be" mean something going to happen in the future or "to be" is like an empty subject "it". Or something else.....

I was totally confused with the meaning of "be" in the above sentences.

Hello Luke warm,

Be is called a copula verb in linguistics. It links the subject to a subject complement. The subject complement provides information about the subject: giving it a name or a quality, identifying it or describing it in some way.

Your sentences are examples of these various functions.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,

Could you explain clearly about following two sentences. Especially, the second one. Because the meaning says ' it is used to show that something will happen in future' but why there is "was" if it mean future.

Be
[+ to infinitive] FORMAL used to show that something will happen in the future:
1. We are to (= we are going to) visit Australia in the spring.
2.She was never to see (= she never saw) her brother again.

Hello Luke warm

The verb 'be' plus 'to' infinitive speaks about something that will happen in the future from the perspective of the time being spoken about.

In 1, the time spoken of is now, and so the visit to Australia is after now.

In 2, the time spoken of is a time in the past, and so her not seeing her brother again happened after that (i.e. in the future from the perspective of that past time), but which is in the past from our perspective now.

Does that help you make sense of it?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

I think we also use some adjectives with It and the verb to be and to-infinitive too E.g It’s good to meet you. I’m glad to hear from you

Hello sir,
Be kind
Be confident
Be honest

Sir my doubt is what does the word " be"
Mean in the above sentence

Does it mean ' behave honest' or
' become honest ' ?

Thank you sir.

Hello Luke warm,

Be is the imperative form of the verb to be. We use imperatives to give orders or instructions. You can think of it as a stronger and more direct way to say you should be.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Sir,

Kindly see the following sentences.

1) The Crime Branch sleuths had identified John to be deceased in the first week of December 2019. (Here I would like to know whether we can use "being" in the place of "to be" and rewrite the sentence as "The Crime Branch sleuths had identified John being deceased in the first week of December 2019.")

2) The police on reaching his area found the house to be locked. (Here also I would like to know whether this sentence can rewrite as " The police on reaching his area found the house being locked.")

Thank you.

Pages