Difference between revisions of "Be"

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Revision as of 05:29, 21 October 2019

Be (/bi:/) is one of the three primary verbs that are important in English in the construction of aspect (progressive/continuous, perfect), voice (passive), and of negative, interrogative and emphatic forms of full verbs. It is also the commonest verb[1] in the English language.

It can be used both as the existential verb (I think, therefore I am) and as a copular verb (My daughter is a teacher).

Auxiliary verb

As an auxiliary verb, it is used in the construction of the progressive/continuous aspect (progressive auxiliary[2]) - My daughter is/was living in Manchester - and of the passive voice (passive auxiliary[3]) - Luke was promoted last week.


  • be, am, is/isnt, are/aren't, was/wasn't, were/weren't, been, being.


The verb be can usually be contracted in more than one way for the affirmative, negative and interrogative:

  • I am: I'm - aren't I? - I'm not (see Note 1 below)
  • you are: You're - aren't you? - you're not or you aren't
  • s/he/it is: s/he/it's - isn't s/he/it? - s/he/it's not or s/he/it isn't
  • we are: we're - aren't we? - we're not or we aren't
  • they are: they're - aren't they? - they're not or they aren't

Note 1: I'm not is the standard contraction. I aren't is not correct. Likewise, for questions, aren't I? is the standard contraction, although amn't I? may be used in some dialects.[4]


See main article Ain't.

The contraction ain't for am not; are not and is not, while widespread in the 18th century as a contraction for am not, is still normal in many dialects and informal speech. It is not standard English, however, and should not be used in formal or written contexts.[5]


See also