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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:

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

Hello sir or madam,

This is related to short form. Is below sentence correct?

Nothing can make you a wise person but your very own experience.

Extra question: Is comma required before but?

Hello Chekytan,

Please note that this is a question of punctuation, which we don't really cover on LearnEnglish. That said, I wouldn't use a comma before 'but' here.

There might be some style guides out there that would disagree, but I think most would recommend against one here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,

In a Matrimonial ad I have seen a caption " be found " .

My doubt is
1. Is that caption " be found " a passive sentence.
2. If it is a passive sentence does it mean "be found by someone or something" is this correct.
3. If it is a passive sentence why there is be instead can't we say " is found or are found" .
4. Can we replace "be found" with " to be found ". Does Adding "to" make any difference in the sentence.

Thanks in advance.
Luke warm

Hello Luke warm,

When you say 'caption', you mean the short text beneath a photo? I'd need to see the advert to be able to say for sure, but it might be an imperative (i.e. a command) -- the imperative form of verbs is the same as the base form (first form).

If it is an imperative, it could be a passive verb form (with the meaning you suggest in 2) or it could be a verb + adjective. 'to be found' is a grammatical verb form, but I don't think it'd make much sense in the context you describe (though of course I haven't seen it and so can't say for sure).

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

While any measure that increases women’s sense of safety and the likelihood of conviction is to be welcomed, it does not solve the underlying problem of men failing to accept women’s bodily autonomy.

What is the meaning and function of "to be welcomed" in the sentence above?

Thanks a lot.

Hi AkiraTa05,

X is to be welcomed means 'X should be welcomed' or 'We should welcome X'. 

This use of to be is for giving instructions or obligations. The speaker is telling other people (or him/herself) what should be done. 

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 use of to be is quite formal in style.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

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

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