Verb BE

BE is the most important verb in the English language. It is used as a main verb and as an auxiliary verb, and it is also used in the passive voice. BE is the only English verb that has three conjugations in the simple present (am | are | is). All other verbs have just two conjugations. BE is also the only verb that has two conjugations in the simple past (was | were). All other verbs have only one past tense conjugation.

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Here are the conjugations for BE in the simple present.

  singular   plural
1st person I am we are
2nd person you are you are
3rd person he, she, it is they are

Here are conjugations for the verb BE in the simple past.

  singular   plural
1st person I was we were
2nd person you were you were
3rd person he, she, it was they were

The verb BE, when followed by an adjective, is used to describe a person, place, or thing.

person   place   thing
I am tired. Costa Rica is warm. The building is tall.
She is kind. The rooms are large. My ideas are bad.
We were late. Paris was beautiful. The tea was cold.

The verb BE can be followed by a noun to identify a person or a relationship.

I am a lawyer.
He is a student.
We are friends.

BE can be followed by a preposition to identify the location of a person or thing.

person I am at work.
The man is in the car.
thing The keys are by the door.
My book was on the table.

BE can be used with other verbs to create different verb forms.

BE + present participle   I am working.   present progressive
He was running. past progressive
BE + past participle   Films are shown here.   passive voice
The cake was eaten.
BE + infinitive   I am to leave Friday.    
She was to call for help.

The past participle of the verb BE is been. This form is used in perfect aspects.

I have been here two hours.   present perfect
The dog has been barking all night
They had been to Paris six times.   past perfect
I had been thinking you would win.

BE is used to talk about the time and the weather.

What time is it?   It is 8:30.
When was the party? It was at noon.
How is the weather?   It is sunny.
How was Finland? It was cold.

The verb BE is often contracted with subject pronouns or the negative adverb not. Read contractions with BE to learn more.

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