Definition of be verb from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//bi//
    ; NAmE NAmE//bi//
    ; BrE strong form BrE//biː//
    ; NAmE strong form NAmE//biː//
    Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they am/​are
    BrE BrE//æm//
    ; NAmE NAmE//æm//
    ; BrE BrE//ɑː(r)//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ɑːr//
    am not/​are not/​aren't he / she / it is
    BrE BrE//ɪz//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ɪz//
    is notisn't past simple was
    BrE BrE//wəz//
    ; NAmE NAmE//wəz//
    ; BrE strong form BrE//wɒz//
    ; NAmE strong form NAmE//wʌz//
    was notwasn't
    BrE BrE//ˈwɒznt//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈwʌznt//
    past simple were
    BrE BrE//wə(r)//
    ; NAmE NAmE//wər//
    ; BrE strong form BrE//wɜː(r)//
    ; NAmE strong form NAmE//wɜːr//
    were notweren't past participle been
    BrE BrE//biːn//
    , BrE//bɪn//
    ; NAmE NAmE//bɪn//
    -ing form being
    BrE BrE//ˈbiːɪŋ//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈbiːɪŋ//
    jump to other results
  1. 1  linking verb there is/are + noun to exist; to be present Is there a God? Once upon a time there was a princess… I tried phoning but there was no answer. There's a bank down the road. Was there a pool at the hotel?
  2. 2  [intransitive] + adv./prep. to be located; to be in a place The town is three miles away. If you're looking for your file, it's on the table. Mary's upstairs.
  3. 3  [intransitive] + adv./prep. to happen at a time or in a place The party is on Friday evening. The meetings are always in the main conference room.
  4. 4  [intransitive] + adv./prep. to remain in a place She has been in her room for hours. They're here till Christmas.
  5. 5  [intransitive] + adv./prep. to attend an event; to be present in a place I'll be at the party. He'll be here soon (= will arrive soon).
  6. 6  [intransitive] (only used in the perfect tenses) + adv./prep. to visit or call I've never been to Spain. He had been abroad many times. (British English) Has the postman been yet? In North American English, come is used instead:Has the mailman come yet?
  7. 7  [intransitive] be from… used to say where somebody was born or where their home is She's from Italy.
  8. 8  linking verb used when you are naming people or things, describing them or giving more information about them + noun Today is Monday. ‘Who is that?’ ‘It's my brother.’ She's a great beauty. Susan is a doctor. He wants to be (= become) a pilot when he grows up. London is not England. + adj. It's beautiful! Life is unfair. He is ten years old. ‘How are you?’ ‘I'm very well, thanks.’ Be quick! be (that)… The fact is (that) we don’t have enough money. be doing something The problem is getting it all done in the time available. be to do something The problem is to get it all done in the time available.
  9. 9  linking verb it is/was used when you are describing a situation or saying what you think about it + adj. It was really hot in the sauna. It's strange how she never comes to see us any more. He thinks it's clever to make fun of people. + noun It would be a shame if you lost it. It's going to be a great match.
  10. 10  linking verb it is/was used to talk about time + noun It's two thirty. + adj. It was late at night when we finally arrived.
  11. 11  linking verb + noun used to say what something is made of Is your jacket real leather?
  12. 12  linking verb [intransitive] used to say who something belongs to or who it is intended for be mine, yours, etc. The money's not yours, it's John's. be for me, you, etc. This package is for you.
  13. 13  linking verb + noun to cost ‘How much is that dress?’ ‘Eighty dollars.’
  14. 14  linking verb + noun to be equal to Three and three is six. How much is a thousand pounds in euros? Let x be the sum of a and b. London is not England (= do not think that all of England is like London).
  15. 15  linking verb be everything, nothing, etc. (to somebody) used to say how important something is to somebody Money isn't everything (= it is not the only important thing). A thousand dollars is nothing to somebody as rich as he is.
  16. Word OriginOld English bēon, an irregular and defective verb, whose full conjugation derives from several originally distinct verbs. The forms am and is are from an Indo-European root shared by Latin sum and est. The forms was and were are from an Indo-European root meaning ‘remain’. The forms be and been are from an Indo-European root shared by Latin fui ‘I was’, fio ‘I become’, and Greek phuein ‘bring forth, cause to grow’. The origin of are is uncertain.Idioms Most idioms containing be are at the entries for the nouns and adjectives in the idioms, for example be the death of somebody is at death.  as somebody/something used to be called Jill Davis that was (= before her marriage) the Soviet Union, as was
    the be-all and end-all (of something)
    jump to other results
    (informal) the most important part; all that matters Her career is the be-all and end-all of her existence.
    (he, she, etc. has) been and done something
    jump to other results
    (British English, informal) used to show that you are surprised and annoyed by something that somebody has done Someone's been and parked in front of the entrance! see also go and do something
    if it wasn’t/weren’t for…
    jump to other results
     used to say that somebody/something stopped somebody/something from happening If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be alive today.
    something is what it is
    jump to other results
    (informal) used to show that you accept that something negative cannot be changed I never imagined that our company share prices would fall so low, but it is what it is.
    leave/let somebody/something be
    jump to other results
    to leave somebody/something alone without disturbing them or it Leave her be, she obviously doesn't want to talk about it. Let the poor dog be (= don't annoy it).
    (in compounds) future his bride-to-be mothers-to-be (= pregnant women)
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: be