What is the verb to Be? Additional information


What is the verb to Be?

The verb to BE can refer to the present past or future.  It’s the most common and most irregular verb in English.


Main verb Be – linking verb: 

Be is a main verb when it is followed by an adjective, a numeral, a noun phrase or a propositional phrase (its complement).  Here Be is called a linking verb.  It links the subject with a complement which describes it:

subject + be + complement:

I’m hungry / my son is eighteen / John has been a good friend / we‘re from Japan


Be auxiliary verb: 

Be is an auxiliary verb when it is followed by a participle:

be + ing  = (progressive)

subject + be + verb-ing:

Mr Smith is waiting / my sister‘s studying physics / they will be having lunch tomorrow

Note: this is the progressive pattern of the verb phrase and indicates temporary action or action in progress.


Be – past participle: 

subject + be + past participle:

the house is surrounded by trees / two apples have been eaten / he‘s considered a great man




How the verb to be is used:

The verb to be can be used in different ways in English:

1. Basic form (here be is used as the infinitive):

I will be here at ten o’ clock / please be quick


2: Present form: am / are / is:

am is used with: I as subject.   Examples: I am friendly / I am a cyclist / I am ready to help you now

are is used with: we / you / they.  Examples: my friends are friendly / we are friendly / you are a nice person /

is is used with: he / she / it.  Examples: My friend is friendly / she is friendly / it is a round object / it is too late


3. Past forms:

was is used with: I / he / she / it.  Example: I was asleep, but Ann was still up / it was a good day today

were is used with: we / you / they.  Examples: We were a good team / but where were you?


4.  Ing participle: being:

examples: the road is being widened / I’m being careful


5.  Past participle: been:

examples: where have you been? / I’ve been looking for you




these are contractions of the present tense forms of be and are used particularly in speech:

I am: I’m.  Example: I’m sorry I’m late  /  you are: you’re.  Example: thanks, you’re very kind  /  they are: they’re.  Example: they’re changing the law  /  he is: he’s.  Example: where’s Dan?  He’s in bed  /  she is: she’s.  Example: she’s writing a letter  /  it is: it’s.  Example: look it’s snowingBverb

Negative contractions: 

All the present and past forms of be except am have negative contractions ending in n’t. 


is not: isn’t,  example: this pen isn’t mine  /  are not: aren’t,  example: aren’t you coming?   /   was not: wasn’t,  example: Jim wasn’t at home   /   were not: weren’t, example: we weren’t noticed



Useful links:

Past Simple Verb: additional information – on this blog (the verb to Be is used with the Past Simple verb)

What is the verb to Be – Lesson 18

Global Goal 16 – Global Goal 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Global Goal 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: why they matter

Facebook page:  English Grammar – LIVE

Information about the United Nations

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?


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