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To be — auxiliary verb



  • Base form = be
  • Present form = am/is/are
  • Past form = was/were
  • Present participle/gerund = being
  • Past participle = been

Used as a coular verb to connect adjectives to the subject

Other such copular verbs are: seem, become, get, appear to name a few

  • am hungry.
  • She is tired.
  • They are happy.
  • She was surprised.

Hungry, tired, happy and surprised are all adjectives. A copular verb is used to link or connect adjectives with the subject of the sentence.

That is, to be is used to assign traits or qualities to things or people. I am nice/tall/big/smart/great. Nice, tall, big, smart, and great are all adjectives and all take copulative verbs.

To talk about people’s age, height, weight and size plus colours and sizes

  • am twenty-five years old.
  • She is 1.80, which is very tall for a woman.
  • They are 100 kilograms.
  • My shoes are too big for me.
  • The sea is blue, and the grass is green

To form continuous or progressive verbal tenses 

Such continuous tenses in English are:

(Gerund = verb + –ing).

A few examples:

  • Maria is leaving for Athens today.
  • Are you working?
  • She’s having a great time with us.

To form part of the passive voice. All passive forms are below: 

A quick lesson with context and analysis

  • Hello, good morning sir. How may I help you?
  • Good morning. I’m interested1 in buying2 a new smartphone. Are you able3 to help me?
  • Yes, of course. What is your budget?
  • Well, I’m certainly not rich4 so I can’t afford to pay more than 300.00 euros.
  • That’s fine5. I’m sure6 I can find a smartphone within that price range. Smartphones are usually sold7 for less than 300.00 euros anyway. What’s your current smartphone like?
  • Well, my current smartphone is very old and slow8. I don’t like the colour of it either. It’s grey9. I want a black one.
  • No problem. I’m just looking10 now at the latest offers, and we have one that’s selling11 for 280.00 euros. Would that be suitable for you sir?
  • That’s excellent. Thank you very much.


  1. I’m interested. The verb be, in first person singular is am. Be is being used with the adjective interested. Remember, we use the auxiliary verb, be with adjectives.
  2. In buying. Prepositions, words like in, out, of, before, after, up, on etc., generally take the verb + ing form (gerund) when the preposition is followed by a verb. I.e., I’m interested in shopping/singing/helping/climbing.
  3. Are you able. The auxiliary verb be in second person singular are is followed by the adjective able. Be is used with adjectives.
  4. I’m certainly not rich. Rich is an adjective and it’s used with be.
  5. That’s fine. Be + adjective.
  6. I’m sure. Sure is an adjective, hence be.
  7. Smartphones are usually sold. Be, is being used in the passive voice here (present simple passive voice). The present simple in the passive voice = be + past participle.
  8. My current smartphone is very old and slow. Be is being used with the adjectives old and slow.
  9. It’s grey. Grey is an adjective hence be.
  10. I’m just looking. We use the auxiliary verb be with continuous or progressive tenses in English. Here, the present continuous tense is being used to describe an action happening in the moment. The present continuous tense is be + verb + ing.
  11. We have one that’s selling. Be is being used in the present continuous tense. Remember, ‘s is the contraction of that is.

See also