The verb to be
The verb "to be" - forms, uses and examples
|Index :||To be - main verb||To be - auxiliary||To
be as a modal
The verb to be is the fundamental verb used to indicate the existence of an entity (person, object, abstraction) or to relate an entity to its qualities or characteristics. In linguistics, it is sometimes known as a copula.Unlike transitive verbs, it does not take a direct object, but a complement, since the subject and complement of the verb to be relate to the same entity. The complement of to be can be a noun, a noun phrase, an adjective, or a prepositional phrase
|Person||Present||preterit||Present perfect||Past perfect|
|3rd sing||he, she, etc.||is
Examples of usage of the verb to be as main verb
2.1. Progressive forms with beThe verb to be is used as an auxiliary to denote the progressive or continuous aspect of an action; it is thus used to form the "present progressive" and "past progressive" and other progressive tenses (also called the present continuous and past continuous tenses, etc.). In this case, be is followed by the present participle of a verb.
|Present perfect progressive||Past perfect progressive|
|1st sing||I am standing||I will be standing||I was standing||I have been standing||I had been standing|
|2nd sing||you are standing||You will be standing||You were standing||You have been standing||You had been standing|
|3rd sing||he / she... is standing||He / she ... will be standing||He/ she ... was standing||He / she... have been standing||he / she ... had been standing|
|1st plural||we are standing||We will be standing||We were standing||We have been standing||We had been standing|
|2nd plural||you are standing||You will be standing||You were standing||You have been standing||You had been standing|
|3rd plural||they are standing||They will be standing||They were standing||They have been standing||They had been standing|
I could have been eating - They must have been telling the truth
2.2. Passive forms with beThe verb to be is also used as an auxiliary to form passive tenses. In this case, the auxiliary be is followed by the past participle of a verb.
|Sample verb "Take"||Present
|Future passive||Preterit passive||Present perfect passive||Past perfect passive|
|1st sing||I am taken||I will be taken||I was taken||I have been taken||I had been taken|
|3rd sing||It... is taken||He / she ... will be taken||He / she ... was taken||He / she ... has been taken||He / she ... had been taken|
You could have been seriously injured. - They must have been told the truth.
2.3. Progressive and passiveAs to be is used both to form passive tenses, and tenses with progressive aspect, it follows that it is used twice in verb forms that are both passive and progressive..
While a complete range of tenses is theoretically possible, in practice English only has two passive progressive tenses, the present progressive passive, and the past progressive passive.
|Sample verb "help"||Present progressive passive||Past progressive passive|
|1st sing||I am being helped||I was being helped|
|3rd sing||It... is being helped||He / she ... was being helped|
Get used instead of be in passive forms :In everyday English, the auxiliary be can often but not always be replaced by get to express a verb in the passive, whether in progressive or simple aspect.
She was being / was getting taken to hospital, when suddenly she felt much worse.
The computer network is down, as the server is being/ is getting changed.
The window is being / is getting mended.
The staff were being given their daily instructions.
Next I was taken / got taken to see the director of human resources.
2.4. Avoid confusionRemember that
- when the auxiliary to be is followed by a present participle , the verb is in the active voice;
- when it is followed by a past participle, the verb in in the passive voice.
The chicken was eating its dinner
The chicken was eaten for dinner.
They were telling the truth, when they said that they knew nothing
They were told the truth, when the man finally confessed.
The women have been asking to see the managing director.
The women have been asked to see the managing director.
In the first and third persons, it is a modal whose most common value is futurity: in the second person, its main value is one of obligation. However, this distinction is not always true.
||was to make|
||were to make|
|3rd sing||he, she, etc.||... is to make||was to make|
|1st plural.||we||... are to make||were to make|
|2nd plural||you||... are to make||were to make|
|3rd plural||they||... are to make||were to make|
- The train was to leave at 8 (meaning: The train was supposed to leave at 8)
- I'm to work in London next year (I'm going to / have to work in London.....)
- I'm to make three of these cakes ( I must / am supposed to make three..... )
- He's to stand as candidate for the presidency ( He is going to stand.....)
- The children were to stay at home that afternoon (The children were meant to / were going to .....)
- After that, they were to get lost. (After that, they were going to get lost).
- After that, they were to go home (After that, they were supposed to go home).
- You're to get better marks next time. (You must get better marks ....)
- When you get home, you're to go straight to bed. (When you get home, you must go straight to bed).
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