The verb be is used as an auxiliary verb and it can also be used as a main verb. See Types of main verb.The verb be is irregular. It has eight different forms: be, am, is, are, was, were, being, been. The present simple and past simple tenses make more changes than those of other verbs.
|I am late.||We are late.|
|You are late. ||You are late.|
|He is late.||They are late.|
The present participle is being.
|I was late.||We were late.|
|You were late. ||You were late.|
|She was late.||They were late.|
The past participle is been.
- He is being very helpful these days.
- We have been ready for an hour.
- The present simple tense forms of be are often contracted in normal speech. Note that the contracted form of they are is spelled they’re, and not their which is the possessive form of they.
Any form of be is made negative by adding not immediately after it. In speech, some forms of be also have contracted negative forms. Some of these forms emphasize the negative.
|I’m here.||We’re here.|
|You’re here. ||You’re here.|
|He’s here.||They’re here.|
The major uses of be as an auxiliary verb are to form continuous tenses and the passive.The verb be is also used as a main verb. It is commonly found joining a subject to its complement.As a main verb, be is used to talk about:
| ||emphasizes the negative|
|I’m not late.|| |
|You aren’t late.||You’re not late.|
|He isn’t late.||He’s not late.|
|We aren’t late.||We’re not late.|
|They aren’t late.||They’re not late.|
| || |
|I wasn’t late.|| |
|You weren’t late.|| |
|He wasn’t late.|| |
|We weren’t late.|| |
|They weren’t late.|| |
- Feelings and states. For this we use the simple tenses of the verb with a suitable adjective. See Tense and Aspect.
- I am delighted with the news but he is not happy.
- She was busy so she was not able to see me.
- People’s behaviour. For this we use the continuous tenses of the verb with a suitable adjective. See The past simple tense.
- I am not being slow, I am being careful.
- You were being very rude to your mum when I came downstairs.
- The Prime Minister is to visit Hungary in October.
- The Archbishop is to have talks with the Pope next month.
- It + be: we use it as a subject when we are talking about time, distance, weather, or cost. In this use, be is always singular.
- Hurry up, it’s eight thirty!
- Is it? I didn’t know it was so late.
- It’s thirty miles to Glasgow.
- Come and visit us. It’s not very far.
- It’s cold today but it isn’t wet.
- It’s very expensive to live in London.
- There + is/are is used to talk about something existing. In this use, the form that be takes may be singular or plural, depending on the number of the noun, and be is sometimes contracted.
To make the continuous tenses of the main verb be we have to use be twice, once as an auxiliary and once as a main verb.
- There’s a spare toothbrush in the cupboard.
- There was a cold wind blowing.
- There isn’t enough petrol for the journey.
- There are several petrol stations on the way, aren’t there?
The question form of clauses with the verb be in them is made by putting the appropriate form of be right in front of the subject.
- You are being so annoying!
- I know I am being silly, but I am frightened.
- Are you better now?
- Is he free this morning?
- Was he cooking dinner when you arrived?