How to use “to be” verbs
Are you confused by “to be” verbs? It’s okay. “To be” verbs change almost more than any other verb. In other words, they are very irregular. Let’s learn how to use “to be” verbs correctly. Refer back to this lesson when you have questions about how to use them in the future.
What are “to be” verbs?
“To be” verbs are: are, am, is, was, were, been and being. They are used to describe or tell us the condition of people, things, places and ideas. For example, they could tell us the subject’s age, nationality, job or other traits.
Forms of “To be” by tense.
There are many English tenses, but the main ones you will use are present, past, present progressive and present perfect
Subject Verb Agreement When Using “to be” verbs
The correct “to be” verb to use depends on your subject and tense. This chart shows you proper subject verb agreement with “to be” verbs.
Note: Contractions are short forms that will sound more like how people speak.
Feel free to print this out for reference.
Example sentences using “to be” verbs
These are examples of how you will see “to be” verbs most often.
“To be” verbs in positive present tense sentences
I am American.
He is a teacher.
She is happy.
They are at the movies.
“To be” verbs in negative present tense sentences
I am not angry.
She is not at school.
It is not broken.
We are not students.
“To be” verbs in affirmative past tense sentences
I was hungry.
She was at the movies.
You were there.
It was great!.
They were excited.
“To be” verbs in negative past tense sentences
I was not there.
You were not here.
He wasn’t a teacher.
We weren’t at the restaurant.
Questions using “to be” verbs
To make questions with be verbs, use this order: To be verb + subject + complement
Was I there?
Were you sad?
Was she at school?
Was it a good movie?
Were they late?
The previous section contained examples of what most beginners need to learn for using “to be” verbs correctly. In this section, we’ll be covering many other ways to use them.
The present perfect form
The present perfect form is used for describing experiences or events that have happened in the past when the exact time is not important.
It uses this structure: subject + has/have + been + complement
I have been there.
You have been good.
It has been difficult.
He has been an electrician.
We have been here all day.
They have been well-behaved.
Asking questions using the present perfect form.
Questions in the present perfect perform form use the structure: Has/have + subject + been + complement
Have I been mean?
Have you been worried?
Has he been there?
Have they been anxious?
The Present Progressive Form
The present progressive form is for describing continuous or ongoing actions happening right now vs the simple present which describes habits or things which happen now and again.
Use this structure for the present progressive tense for “to be” verbs:
Subject + be verb + verb + ing
I am watching television.
You are pushing the wrong button.
He is looking at the window.
She is studying.
It is raining.
We are traveling.
They are thinking.
Question tags using “to be” verbs
You can add a question tag to the end of a statement to turn it into a question. To put question tags onto sentences using “to be” verbs, use this structure:
statement + “to be” verb + pronoun. The “to be” verb used in the question tag must be the same one used in the statement.
Note: When adding question tags, if the “to be” verb in the statement is positive, then the one in the question tag must be negative. If the “to be” verb statement is negative, the one in the question tag, must be positive.
+statement - question tag
-statement + question tag
I wasn’t being rude, was I? (negative statement with positive question tag)
It was good, wasn’t it? (positive statement with negative question tag)
You were there, weren’t you? (positive statement with negative question tag)
It wasn’t too bad, was it? (negative question tag with positive question tag)
They weren’t angry, were they? (negative statement with positive question tag)
The linking “To be” verb (descriptions)
The linking “to be” verb describes the condition of the subject. Below are a few sentence structures using the linking “to be” verbs.
In statements that describe, you’ll see this structure in which the sentences have a “to be” verb linking the subject to a subject complement or adjective complement:
Subject + “to be” verb + complement
I am excited.
It is boring.
She is the leader.
They are at the bank.
Sometimes when answering a question you can see just a subject and “to be” verb used as in this structure:
subject + “to be” verb
Q: Are you the doctor?
A: I am.
Q: Is she the teacher?
A: She is.
Adding adverbs to your sentences with linking “to be” verbs
Reminder: Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs in order to tell us how, when, where, why, how often or to what extent
Structure: Subject + “to be” verb + adverb +complement or
Adverb, subject + “to be” verb + complement
I am always on time.
It is never boring.
Sometimes, it is difficult.
“To be” verbs for discussing possibility or giving suggestions
When describing possibilities you’ll typically use the following structure:
Subject + modal verb (could, should, would, might etc) + be + complement
Note: “be” stays in this base form directly after a modal verb.
He could be a superstar.
She might be late.
You should be nice to your parents.
When giving suggestions, it is a little more complicated.
subject + modal verb (suggest)+ object + be + complement
subject + modal verb (advise)+ object + to be + complement
I suggest you be nice to your mother.
I advise you to be cooperative.
Imperatives: giving commands using “to be” verbs
When giving imperatives or commands, “to be” verbs stay in the base form of be and typically stay at the beginning of the sentence. In these sentences, the subject is implied so it doesn’t have to be written, that is why you only see the “to be” verb followed by the complement.
Structure: “to be” verb + complement or
Do not + “to be” verb + complement
Be a good student.
Be nice to your teacher.
Don’t be mean to him.
When to use “to be” verbs as infinitives.
Infinitives are to plus a verb in order to make a noun. So you’ll see them in the subject or object of a sentence. They are used to describe the abstract, so they most often are used with a modal verb of desire.
I want to be a singer.
He likes to be the best at what he does.
They hope to be friends.
When making these negative, you’ll put do not or does not before the modal verb.
Note: following don’t or doesn’t modal verbs such as like, want, need, or hope will stay in base form.
I don’t want to be difficult.
He does not like to be mean.
She doesn’t want to be a musician.
The passive voice using “to be” verbs
In sentences using the passive voice, the person or thing which is performing the action is either in the object of the sentence or even omitted. When written, the noun performing the action is normally found following a preposition such as “by”
The most common passive voice construction is this:
Subject + “to be” verb + verb or
Subject + “to be” verb + verb + by + object
In these constructions, the “to be” verb will follow the standard rules for subject verb agreement. The examples below have sentences using “to be” verbs in different tenses.
Present: The car is powered by electricity.
Present progressive: The work is being done.
Past: The building was demolished by the crew.
Future: The meal will be prepared by the chef.
Present perfect: The coffee had been made.
We have covered many ways in which you can use “to be” verbs. Follow our blog for more lessons like this one. Also, if you would like to find out more about studying English online or in the United States, contact us here. FLS International offers live online classes, in-person classes, cultural tours and more!
Written by: Welkin Tang
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.What is verb in English PDF? ›
A verb is a single word, or a group of words, that describe an action or state. This module covers concepts such as subject-verb agreement; recognising verb tense and verb forms; selecting verb tenses for academic writing and common verb-preposition combinations.What is the example of verb to be in present? ›
We can use the present simple of the verb to be to talk about situations and states in the present. I am ten years old. They are Egyptian. My mum is a doctor.What are the 3 functions of the verb to be? ›
- The verb to be as a main verb. 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. ...
- The verb to be as auxiliary. 2.1. ...
- The verb to be as a modal verb.
|Primary Auxiliary Verbs||Be Verb: is, am, are, was, were, been, being Have Verb: have, has, had, having Do Verb: do, does, did|
|Modal Auxiliary Verbs||can, could, shall, should, will, would, may, might, must, dare, need, used to, ought to|
|S.No.||Base Form||Past Participle Form|
|V1 Base Form||V2 Past Simple||V3 Past Participle|
There are sixteen verbs used in Basic English. They are: be, do, have, come, go, see, seem, give, take, keep, make, put, send, say, let, get.How many verbs do you need to know to be fluent? ›
An advanced speaker of a language is also categorized as fluent. Fluency means you've reached 10,000+ words and have reached the highest level of mastering a language without being a native speaker.What should I say instead of to be? ›
To understand 95% of a language and become conversational fluent may require 3 months of applied learning; to reach the 98% threshold could require 10 years.What are the 3 forms of the verb to be in present? ›
The present tense of 'be' has three forms. We say "I am," "he (or she, or it) is," and "you (or we or they) are." All other English verbs have only two forms in the simple present tense. (That's 3rd-person singular for he, she, or it, and the base form for everything else.)Is to be grammar examples? ›
|You||are||You are Chilean.|
|He||is||He is twenty years old.|
|She||is||She is a nurse.|
|It||is||It is a big dog.|
A verb has four principal parts: the present, the present participle, the past, and the past participle. The first principal part, called the present, is the form of a verb that is listed in a dictionary.What are the 4 types of verbs? ›
There are four TYPES of verbs: intransitive, transitive, linking, and passive.What are the 4 basic forms of verbs? ›
There are four forms of a verb: the base form, the past, the past participle, and the present participle.What are the 100 forms of verb? ›
|V1 Base Form||V2 Past Simple||V3 Past Participle|
At school, students often learn by heart the base, past simple and past participle (sometimes called V1, V2, V3, meaning Verb 1, Verb 2, Verb 3) for irregular verbs. They may spend many hours chanting: sing, sang, sung; go, went, gone; have, had, had; etc.
Explanation: To floccinaucinihilipilificate is to estimate something as worthless. If you were doing it now then you would be floccinaucinihilipilificating.What are the 23 main verbs? ›
To the tune of "Jingle Bells", he sang: Helping verbs, helping verbs, there are 23! Am, is, are, was and were, being, been, and be, Have, has, had, do, does, did, will, would, shall and should.What is V1 V2 V3 V4 v5 verb? ›
Answer: V1- It is the first form of verb which is a part of present tense. V2- It is the second form of verb which is used in simple past tense. V3- It is the third form of verb which is a part of past participle. V4- It is the fourth form of verb which is a part of present participle.What are 200 irregular verbs of English? ›
The ten most heavily used verbs in the English language are be, have, do, say, make, go, take, come, see, and get. The linguistic feature all these words share is that they are irregular.What are the 25 main verbs? ›
There are two main types of verbs used in the English language: Regular Verbs and Irregular Verbs. These verbs are not a different tense, but they are very important nonetheless. There are three basic forms of verb tenses: simple, perfect, and progressive. These three forms also work together.Can you become fluent in 2 months? ›
The correct answer is: “it depends,” but you probably already knew that. The next and most accurate answer is that it can take anywhere between three months to two years to learn how to speak, write, and read in a new language fluently.Can you be fluent in a month? ›
While it's possible that some particularly skilled people (a small minority) can learn and speak a language fluently in few months, any serious teacher has to be honest and say that learning a language in 1 or 2 months is nearly impossible.Can you become fluent in 6 months? ›
Any adult can learn a second language in 6 months
He reached conversational fluency in as little as 6 months, and within 2 years, was speaking like a Chinese native speaker.
- Replace to be verbs with bolder, more specific verbs. ...
- Change one or more of the nouns in the sentence into a verb. ...
- Combine short, choppy sentences to eliminate to be verbs. ...
- Avoid overusing there is, there are, there were, this is, etc.
“To be” verbs are: are, am, is, was, were, been and being. They are used to describe or tell us the condition of people, things, places and ideas. For example, they could tell us the subject's age, nationality, job or other traits.At what age do you become fluent? ›
They concluded that the ability to learn a new language, at least grammatically, is strongest until the age of 18 after which there is a precipitous decline. To become completely fluent, however, learning should start before the age of 10.What is the easiest language to learn? ›
- Frisian. Frisian is thought to be one of the languages most closely related to English, and therefore also the easiest for English-speakers to pick up. ...
- Dutch. ...
- Norwegian. ...
- Spanish. ...
- Portuguese. ...
- Italian. ...
- French. ...
Here's your answer: 2 weeks. Zayd Ibn Thabit learned Hebrew in 17 days on the request of Muhammad (PBUH). Powell Janulus, a Canadian polyglot entered the Guinness world records for learning 42 languages fluently (tested on all 42).How do you explain to be verbs to children? ›
The “to be” is a verb used to describe something or someone.
In English, it can be used to say different things according to the context. However, the most common use of the to be verb is to talk about names, ages, feeling, nationalities, and professions, especially when talking in the present tense.
Be verbs are am, are, is, was, were, been and being. We only only use be as to be. "Be" verbs indicate a state of being.What tense is used to be? ›
The verb used to is a 'marginal' modal verb. Unlike the other modal verbs, it is only found in the past tense.How do you conjugate the verb to be? ›
- Present. I am. you are. he is. ...
- I am being. you are being. he is being. we are being. ...
- I was. you were. he was. we were. ...
- I was being. you were being. he was being. ...
- I have been. you have been. he has been. ...
- I have been being. you have been being. he has been being. ...
- I had been. you had been. he had been.
am, are, is are forms of the verb to be in the simple present. 'm, 're, 's are short (contracted) forms of am, are, is. 'm not, aren't, isn't are short (contracted forms) of am not, are not, is not.
- There is a rabbit inside. There is nothing in the fridge. There is a problem... ...
- The party is tonight. The meeting is down the hall. Come, it is over there.
- She is at school. She is home. ...
- She is Alexis and this is Bob. He is a singer. ...
- She is beautiful. It is stinky.
The form of the verb to be is am (contracted to 'm), is ('s) and are ('re) in the present tense and was/were in the past. To be is used as an auxiliary verb, to form continuous tenses and the passive, and as a main verb.What is V3 form of be? ›
Be of Past Participle V3
This verb's V3 form is 'been'. In the case of past perfect tense or present perfect tense, the word 'been' is used. + In the present perfect tense, the word be is used 'have + been' or 'has +been.
What are “to be” verbs? “To be” verbs are: are, am, is, was, were, been and being. They are used to describe or tell us the condition of people, things, places and ideas. For example, they could tell us the subject's age, nationality, job or other traits.What is the 3 form of be? ›
be has 8 forms: be, was, were, been, being, am, is, are.Why is it called verb to be? ›
ergo, it is called "to be" verbs because it is meant to exist or could be existing, or about to exist. "to be" is somewhat a word that links sentences and or phrases that is: About to happen. (She "is" going to jump.)Why is there 2 verbs for to be? ›
This became essere in Vulgar Latin, and went on to be ser in Spanish. But in Hispania, for reasons no one fully understands, speakers created a second verb for “to be,” stare, which had the sense of “to stand.” So Spanish has ser (to be, in essence) and estar (to be, in state).What are the 23 being verbs? ›
Helping verbs, helping verbs, there are 23! Am, is, are, was and were, being, been, and be, Have, has, had, do, does, did, will, would, shall and should. There are five more helping verbs: may, might, must, can, could!What is V4 of Be? ›
( were for :- i , we , you , they). v3 - been ,it used for past participle. v4 - being, it used for -ing participle form. v5 - is/am/are, these used for present tense. is and am for singular tense, and are for plural.What are be verbs notes? ›
Be verbs are am, are, is, was, were, been and being. We only only use be as to be. "Be" verbs indicate a state of being.
|base form||present simple||-ed form|
|be||I she, he, it you, we, they||been|
All English verbs (except to be) have five forms: base, past tense, past participle, present participle, and third-person singular.Will be V3 example? ›
To form the future perfect simple, use will have + V3 (past participle) form of the verb. here for three years by the time the visa needs to be renewed. all the math problems by then. By this time next year we will have been married for 30 years.What is V1 V2 V3 V4 English grammar? ›
Answer: V1- It is the first form of verb which is a part of present tense. V2- It is the second form of verb which is used in simple past tense. V3- It is the third form of verb which is a part of past participle. V4- It is the fourth form of verb which is a part of present participle.