The verb 'be'

Learn about the different forms of the verb be and do the exercises to practise using them.

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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Hello Dona

'to Buckingham Palace' is the best form to use here. Many buildings that have the name of their owner or builder in them (Buckingham Palace was named after Buckingham House, which was bought by the Duke of Buckingham) are not preceded by 'the', though there are many exceptions to this rule. Our definite articles page has more information on this topic in general if you're interested.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Soumis par Lasantha le jeu 10/01/2019 - 05:53

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Dear Sir, Please kindly explain me what is the difference between? “There is been an accident” and “An accident has happened”
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Soumis par Peter M. le jeu 10/01/2019 - 07:12

En réponse à par Lasantha

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Hello Lasantha,

The first sentence is not correct. You can, however, say

There has been an accident.

 

The difference between There has been an accident and An accident has happened is really only one of style. I think the first sentence is much more common in English. The second feels a little clumsy in terms of style, though grammatically it is perfectly fine.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Maurox54 le sam 13/10/2018 - 22:40

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hello! need some help with something now, I've heard before that the following: is, are, was, were can be used as an auxiliary verb, full verb or verb to be EX: aux verb : "he is playing football" full verb: "they are fifteen years old" the verb to be: "My mother is a teacher" and the point is: I don't understand the difference between "be" as a verb to be and "be" as the full verb help!

Hello Maurox54,

Auxiliary verbs in English are used in many ways. We use them to make questions, negatives, emphatic forms, progressive forms, perfect forms and passive voice, for example. There are a number of verbs used in this way: be, have and do are the most common but there are others.

When we use a verb as an auxiliary it does not have an inherent meaning. It rather has a grammatical function, changing the main verb into a different form. That is why we do not study auxiliary verbs as a category but rather study the forms which they help to make (progressive aspect, passive voice etc.).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user dipakrgandhi

Soumis par dipakrgandhi le ven 21/09/2018 - 08:10

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'Why natural is not always be safe for babies' This is the headline in newspaper. What is this 'be' doing here? What if we write it without 'be' ? Regards

Hello dipakrgandhi,

In my estimation, that is a mistake. I agree with you: 'be' should be omitted. This is probably just an error their proofreader missed.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par rama_bee le lun 30/07/2018 - 02:21

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Dear Team, Kindly explain me the below context, We are blessed with a baby boy, and We have blessed with a baby boy. Which one is more correct?
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Soumis par Peter M. le lun 30/07/2018 - 05:56

En réponse à par rama_bee

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Hello rama_bee,

The normal phrase is as follows:

We have been blessed with a baby boy.

 

The phrase is most often used by religious people as it suggests a blessing from God.

The first version ('are blessed') is also grammatically correct but is much less common and would be only used as an announcement at or just after the moment of birth.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par manuel24 le dim 08/07/2018 - 11:26

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when to use is+being?could you show me an example?

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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par Crokong le mar 03/04/2018 - 08:29

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Hello sir. Could you tell me what the verb 'get' means in this sentence? I'm motivated to get my work done even faster.
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Soumis par Dona S le jeu 29/03/2018 - 14:33

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Hello EnglishTeam Could you kindly explain how to use "being able" in a sentence correctly. Thanks Dona

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']

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Soumis par Dona S le jeu 22/03/2018 - 14:45

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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, Dona

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.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par birajmehta le dim 18/03/2018 - 09:47

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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,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Soumis par birajmehta le jeu 01/02/2018 - 18:38

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" What would a traveller visiting a medieval town expect to find?" ////////// sir i can not understand the meaning of this sentence as well as its construction or structure

Hello birajmehta,

This is actually quite a simple sentence but it looks complex because it has such a long subject. If we replace the subject with 'you' then I think the structure becomes clear.

What would you expect to find?

The subject is 'a traveller visiting a medieval town' and this is a noun followed by a reduced relative clause:

a traveller who is visiting a medieval town

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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Soumis par Baahubali le mar 16/01/2018 - 13:50

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hello sir i have recently read a sentence ; "convict requested that he be allowed to speak freely." is it right? or must be can be used in place of be. thanks
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Soumis par Peter M. le ven 19/01/2018 - 06:12

En réponse à par Baahubali

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Hello Baahubali,

This sentence is fine. The construction is an example of the subjunctive, which is the base form of the verb ('be') used after certain verbs. 'Request' is one such verb but there are others. These are generally related to certain ways of speaking such as 'insist', 'suggest' and 'demand'.

You can read more about the subjunctive here.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team