The Uses of Verb "To Be" - Quynh Huong Center for Foreign Language Translation & Education

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7 Oct 2014

The Uses of Verb "To Be"

  • Linking verb [v-n] there is / are 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.
  • [V + 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.
  • [V + 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.
  • [V + adv. / Prep.] To remain in a place: She has been in her room for hours. They're here till Christmas.
  • [V + 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).
  • [V + adv. / Prep.] (Only used in the perfect tenses) to visit or call: I've never been to Spain. He had been abroad many times. (BrE) Has the postman been yet? (NAmE) Has the mailman come yet?
  • [V] "be" from... used to say where sb was born or where their home is: She's from Italy.
  • Linking verb used when you are naming people or things, describing them or giving more information about them: [v-n] "Who is that?" "It's my brother." She's a great beauty. He wants to be (= become) a pilot when he grows up. [V-adj] It's beautiful! Life is unfair. He is ten years old. "How are you?" "I'm very well, thanks." Be quick! [V (that)] The fact is (that) we don't have enough money. [V _Ing, v to INF] The problem is getting it all done in the time available. The problem is to get it all done in the time available.
  • Linking verb it is / was used when you are describing a situation or saying what you think about it: [v-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. [V-n] It would be a shame if you lost it. It's going to be a great match.
  • Linking verb it is / was used to talk about time: [v-n] It's two thirty. [V-adj] It was late at night when we finally arrived.
  • Linking verb [v-n] used to say what sth is made of: Is your jacket real leather?
  • Linking verb [v] "be" mine, yours, etc. | be for me, you, etc. used to say whom sth belongs to or whom it is intended for: The money's not yours, it's John's. This package is for you.
  • Linking verb [v-n] to cost: "How much is that dress?" "Eighty dollars."
  • Linking verb [v-n] to be equal to: Three and three is six. How much is a thousand pounds in euros? London is not England (= do not think that all of England is like London).
  • Linking verb [v-n] be everything, nothing, etc. (to sb) used to say how important sth is to sb: Money isn't everything (= it is not the only important thing). A thousand dollars is nothing to somebody as rich as he is.
    Her career is the be-all and end-all of her existence.

  • As / that was: As sb/sth used to be called: Jill Davis that was (= before her marriage) the Soviet Union, as was.
  • (He, she, etc. has) been and done sth: (BrE, Informal) used to show that you are surprised and annoyed by sth that sb has done: Someone's been and parked in front of the entrance!
  • If it wasn't / weren't for...: Used to say that sb/sth stopped sb/sth from happening: If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be alive today.
  • Leave / let sb/sth be: To leave sb/sth 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).

  • Auxiliary verb
    • Used with a past participle to form the passive: He was killed in the war. Where were they made? The house was still being built. You will be told what to do.
    • Used with a present participle to form progressive tenses: I am studying Chinese. I'll be seeing him soon. What have you been doing this week? I'm always being criticized.
    • Used to make question tags (= short questions added to the end of statements): You're not hungry, are you? Ben's coming, isn't he? The old theatre was pulled down, wasn't it?
    • Used to avoid repeating the full form of a verb in the passive or a progressive tense: Karen wasn't beaten in any of her games, but all the others were. "Are you coming with us?" "No, I'm not."
    • Be to do sth used to say what must or should be done: I am to call them once I reach the airport. You are to report this to the police. What is to be done about this problem?
    • Be to do sth used to say what is arranged to happen: They are to be married in June.
    • Be to do sth used to say what happened later: He was to regret that decision for the rest of his life. (= he did regret it).
    • Be not, never, etc. to be done used to say what could not or did not happen: Anna was nowhere to be found (= we could not find her anywhere). He was never to see his wife again (= although he did not know it would be so at the time, he did not see her again). She wanted to write a successful novel, but it was not to be (= it turned out never to happen).
    • If sb / it were to do sth... | were sb / it to do sth... (formal) used to express a condition: If we were to offer you more money, would you stay? Were we to offer you more money, would you stay?

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