• Be

    Pronunciation

    • UK IPA: /biː/
    • US IPA: /bi/
    • Rhymes: -iː
    • Homophones: b, bee, Bea

    Origin

    From Middle English been ("to be"), from Old English bēon ("to be, become"), from Proto-Germanic *beuną ("to be, exist, come to be, become"), from Proto-Indo-European *bʰew- ("to grow, become, come into being, appear"). Cognate with West Frisian binne ("are"), Dutch ben ("am"), Low German bün ("am"), German bin ("am"), Old English būan ("to live, wone"). Irregular forms are inherited from the Old English verb wesan.

    Verb

    1. (intransitive, now literary) To exist; to have real existence.
      • 1526, Bible, tr. William Tyndale, Matthew 2:Rachel wepynge ffor her chyldren, and wolde nott be comforted because they were not.
      • circa 1600 William Shakespeare, :To be, or not to be, that is the Question ....
      • 1603, John Florio, translating Michel de Montaigne, Essays, II.12:it were great sottishnesse, and apparent false-hood, to say, that that is which is not yet in being, or that already hath ceased from being.
      • 1643, Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, II.2:There is surely a peece of Divinity in us, something that was before the Elements, and owes no homage unto the Sun.
      • 2004, Richard Schickel, "Not Just an African Story", Time, 13 Dec 2004:The genial hotel manager of the past is no more. Now owner of a trucking concern and living in Belgium, Rusesabagina says the horrors he witnessed in Rwanda "made me a different man."
    2. With there as dummy subject: to exist.
      • 1598, William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice:Some men there are loue not a gaping Pigge:
        Some that are mad, if they behold a Cat:
        And others, when the bag-pipe sings i'th nose,
        Cannot containe their Vrine for affection.
      • 1817, Jane Austen, Persuasion:"There is a sort of domestic enjoyment to be known even in a crowd, and this you had."
      • 2011, Mark Sweney, The Guardian, 6 Jul 2011:"There has been lots of commentary on who is staying and who is staying out and this weekend will be the real test," said one senior media buying agency executive who has pulled the advertising for one major client.
    3. (intransitive) To occupy a place.The cup is on the table.
    4. (intransitive) To occur, to take place.When will the meeting be?
    5. (intransitive, without predicate) elliptical form of "be here", "go to and return from" or similar.The postman has been today, but my tickets have still not yet come.I have been to Spain many times.
    6. (transitive, copulative) Used to indicate that the subject and object are the same.Ignorance is bliss.
    7. (transitive, copulative, mathematics) Used to indicate that the values on either side of an equation are the same.3 times 5 is fifteen.
    8. (transitive, copulative) Used to indicate that the subject plays the role of the predicate nominal.François Mitterrand was president of France from 1981 to 1995.
    9. (transitive, copulative) Used to connect a noun to an adjective that describes it.The sky is blue.
    10. (transitive, copulative) Used to indicate that the subject has the qualities described by a noun or noun phrase.The sky is a deep blue today.
    11. (transitive, auxiliary) Used to form the passive voice.The dog was drowned by the boy.
      • 1995, C. K. Ogden, Psyche: An Annual General and Linguistic Psychology 1920-1952, Study courses of Esperanto and Ido have been broadcast.
    12. (transitive, auxiliary) Used to form the continuous forms of various tenses.The woman is walking.I shall be writing to you soon.We liked to chat while we were eating.
      • 1995, C. K. Ogden, Psyche: An Annual General and Linguistic Psychology 1920-1952, In the possibility of radio uses of a constructed language — and such experiments are proving successful — vast sums of money and untold social forces may be involved.
    13. (archaic) Used to form the perfect aspect with certain intransitive verbs, most of which indicate motion. Often still used for "to go"
      • 1606 ( by William Shakespeare)They are not yet come back. (instead of the modern They have not yet come back.)
      • 1850, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Blessed Damozel, lines 67-68‘I wish that he were come to me,
        For he will come,’ she said.
      • Matthew 28:6 (various translations, from the King James Version of 1611 to Revised Version of 1881):He is not here; for he is risen...
      • 1922, A. E. Housman, XXV, line 13The King with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning;
    14. (transitive, auxiliary) Used to form future tenses, especially the future periphrastic.I am to leave tomorrow.I would drive you, were I to obtain a car.
    15. Used to link a subject to a count or measurement.This building is three hundred years old.It is almost eight.I am 75 kilograms.
    16. (With since) used to indicate passage of time since the occurrence of an event.It has been three years since my grandmother died. (similar to My grandmother died three years ago, but emphasizes the intervening period)It had been six days since his departure, when I received a letter from him.
    17. (often impersonal) Used to indicate weather, air quality, or the like.It is hot in Arizona, but it is not usually humid.Why is it so dark in here?

    Conjugation

    Modern conjugation{| class="wikitable" style="text-align:center"! colspan="2" | infinitive| colspan="5" | to be|-! colspan="2" | present participle/gerund| colspan="5" | being|-! colspan="2" | past participle| colspan="5" | been|-! rowspan="2" |! colspan="2" | indicative! colspan="2" | subjunctive! colspan="2" | imperative|-! colspan="1" | singular! colspan="1" | plural! colspan="1" | singular! colspan="1" | plural! colspan="1" | singular! colspan="1" | plural|-! rowspan="3" | present| I am ('m)| we are ('re)| I be| we be| —| let's be|-| you are ('re)| you are ('re)| you be| you be| be| be|-| he/she/it is ('s)| they are ('re)| he/she/it be| they be| —| —|-! rowspan="3" | preterite| I was*| we were| I were**| we were|rowspan="3" colspan="2" bgcolor="lightgray"||-| you were| you were| you were| you were|-| she/he/it was*| they were| she/he/it were**| they were|} *Some non-standard dialects use were in these instances.
    was in these instances.
    Archaic conjugation{| class="wikitable" style="text-align:center"! colspan="2" | infinitive| colspan="5" | to be|-! colspan="2" | present participle/gerund| colspan="5" | being|-! colspan="2" | past participle| colspan="5" | been|-! rowspan="2" |! colspan="2" | indicative! colspan="2" | subjunctive! colspan="2" | imperative|-! colspan="1" | singular! colspan="1" | plural! colspan="1" | singular! colspan="1" | plural! colspan="1" | singular! colspan="1" | plural|-! rowspan="3" | present| I am ('m)| we are ('re)| I be| we be| —| let's be|-| thou art| ye are| thou beest| ye be| be (thou)***| be (ye)***|-| he/she/it is ('s)| they are ('re)| he/she/it be| they be| —| —|-! rowspan="3" | preterite| I was*| we were| I were**| we were|rowspan="3" colspan="2" bgcolor="lightgray"||-| thou wast| ye were| thou wert| ye were|-| she/he/it was*| they were| she/he/it were**| they were|} *Some, non-standard dialects will have were in these instances.
    was in these instances.
    • The verb be is the most irregular non-defective verb in Standard English. Unlike other verbs, which distinguish at most five forms (as in dodoesdoingdiddone), be distinguishes eight:
      • Be itself is the plain form, used as the infinitive, as the imperative, and as the present subjunctive.
      • I want to be a father someday. (infinitive)If that be true... (present subjunctive)Allow the truth to be heard! (infinitive)Please be here by eight o'clock. (imperative)The librarian asked that the rare books not be touched. (present subjunctive)
      • Be is also used as the present tense indicative form in the alternate, dynamic
        lexical conjugation of be:
      • What do we do? We be ourselves. (first-person plural present indicative, lexical be)but: Who are we? We are human beings. (first-person plural present indicative, copula be)
      • It is also an archaic alternative form of the indicative, especially in the pluralhttp://books.google.fr/books?id=q3QSAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA357&lpg=PA357&dq=mood+tense+of+be+in+%22I+be%22&source=bl&ots=mjI9wpNsbf&sig=mCMwoBB65B9i6GvFTaOhErLON78&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ZUogT7TkGKaksQLgyoSTDg&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=mood%20tense%20of%20be%20in%20%22I%20be%22&f=false:
      • The powers that be, are ordained of God. (Romans 13:1, Tyndale Bible, 1526)We are true men; we are no spies: We be twelve brethren... (Genesis 42:31-2, King James Version, 1611)I think it be thine indeed, for thou liest in it. (Hamlet, Act V, Scene 1, circa 1600)
      • Am, are, and is are the forms of the present indicative. Am is the first-person singular (used with I); is is the third-person singular (used with he, she, it and other subjects that would be used with does rather than do); and are is both the second-person singular and the plural (used with we, you, they, and any other plural subjects).Am I in the right place? (first-person singular present indicative)You are even taller than your brother! (second-person singular present indicative)Where is the library? (third-person singular present indicative)These are the biggest shoes we have. (plural present indicative)
      • Was and were are the forms of the past indicative and past subjunctive (like did). In the past indicative, was is the first– and third-person singular (used with I, as well as with he, she, it and other subjects that would be used with does rather than do), and were is both the second-person singular and the plural (used with we, you, they, and any other plural subjects). In the traditional past subjunctive, were is used with all subjects, though many speakers do not actually distinguish the past subjunctive from the past indicative, and therefore use was with first– and third-person singular subjects even in cases where other speakers would use were.I was out of town. (first-person singular past indicative)You were the first person here. (second-person singular past indicative)The room was dirty. (third-person singular past indicative)We were angry at each other. (plural past indicative)I wish I were more sure. (first-person singular past subjunctive; was is also possible, though considered less correct)If she were here, she would know what to do. (third-person singular past subjunctive; was is also possible, though considered less correct)
      • Being is the gerund and present participle, used in noun-like constructions, in the progressive aspect, and after various verbs (like doing). (It's also used as an actual noun; for those senses, see the entry for being itself.)I don't like being here. (gerund)All of a sudden, he's being nice to everyone. (present participle in the progressive aspect)It won't stop being a problem until someone does something about it. (present participle in the progressive aspect)
      • Been is the past participle, used in the perfect aspect. In Middle English, it was also the infinitive.It's been that way for a week and a half.
      • In archaic or obsolete forms of English, with the pronoun thou, the verb be has a few additional forms:
        • When the pronoun thou was in regular use, the forms art, wast, and wert were the corresponding present indicative, past indicative, and past subjunctive, respectively.
        • As thou became less common and more highly marked, a special present-subjunctive form beest developed (replacing the regular present subjunctive form be, still used with all other subjects). Additionally, the form wert, previously a past subjunctive form, came to be used as a past indicative as well.
      • The forms am, is, and are can contract with preceding subjects: I’m ("I am"), ’s ("is"), ’re ("are"). The form are most commonly contracts with personal pronouns (we’re ("we are"), you’re ("you are"), they’re ("they are")), but contractions with other subjects is possible; the form is contracts quite freely with a variety of subjects. These contracted forms, however, are possible only when there is an explicit, non-preposed complement, and they cannot be stressed; therefore, contraction does not occur in sentences such as the following:Who's here? —I am.I wonder what it is.I don't want to be involved. —But you are involved, regardless.
      • Several of the finite forms of be have special negative forms, containing the suffix -n’t, that can be used instead of adding the adverb not. Specifically, the forms is, are, was, and were have the negative forms isn’t, aren’t, wasn’t, and weren’t. The form be itself does not, even in finite uses, with “not be” being used in the present subjunctive and “do not be” or “don’t be” (or, in dated use, “be not”) being used in the imperative. The form am has the negative forms aren’t, amn’t, and arguably ain’t, but all of these are in restricted use; see their entries for details.
      • Outside of Standard English, there is some variation in usage of some forms; some dialects, for example, use is or ’s throughout the present indicative (supplanting, in whole or in part, am and are), and/or was throughout the past indicative and past subjunctive (supplanting were).

    Usage notes

    When used copulatively with a pronoun, traditional grammar puts the pronoun in the nominative case (I, he, she, we, they) rather than the objective case (me, him, her, us, them), regardless of which side of the copula it is placed. For example, "I was the masked man" and "The masked man was I" would both be considered correct, while "The masked man was me" and "Me was the masked man" would both be incorrect. However, most colloquial speech treats the verb be as transitive, in which case the pronoun is used in the objective case if it occurs after the copula: "I was the masked man" but "The masked man was me". This paradigm applies even if the copula is linking two pronouns - "I am her" but "She is me" (versus the traditional "I am she" and "She is I") and "Am I me?" (versus the traditional "Am I I?").

    Synonyms

    • (used to form passive) get

    Anagrams

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