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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:


(a) pity
(a) shame


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:



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:

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


Hi manuel24,

When we use 'be' in the present continuous, it usually means that we are talking about an event or an action that is happening right now rather than a more permanent quality. For example, if we have a very intelligent friend, we'd say 'She is very intelligent'. But if our friend is doing something senseless, which is uncharacteristic of her, we could say 'She is being stupid' to show that we are referring to this specific action at this specific time and not her general character.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir. Could you tell me what the verb 'get' means in this sentence?
I'm motivated to get my work done even faster.

Hello EnglishTeam

Could you kindly explain how to use "being able" in a sentence correctly.


Hello Dona,

As a verb 'be able' is not used in a continuous form. However, we can use it as a gerund:

Being able to swim is important for every child. ['Being able to swim' is the subject of the sentence]

I have always dreamed of being able to fly. ['being able to fly' is the object of the preposition 'of']



The LearnEnglish Team

Dear EnglishTeam,

"what did you do in the holidays?" I found this sentence in my son´s text book. Is the
usage of preposition correct? I just thought of using either "on" or "during" instead. It´s a bit confusing. Please explain.

Thanks n regards,


Hello Dona S,

It is possible to use 'in' here. We usually say on holiday (singular) to mean during my vacation and in the holidays to mean during the time outside of work/school time. You could use 'during' here but not 'on', which we only use with the singular form, as above.



The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for the explanation Peter.


sentence : the population whose level of income is below xyz figure is considered to be below the poverty line.
> is it better off to remove "to be" from this sentence . i do not understand why is it here in this sentence. or is it necessary

Hello birajmehta,

Alhough the sentence would be intelligible without it, 'to be' is necessary here. Sometimes 'to be' is omitted after 'considered' when a noun follows it (e.g. 'is considered to be a disaster'), but in this case what follows is a phrase -- in such a case, 'to be' is not omitted.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team