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How to Use Be Verbs

The verb "to be" shows a state of being. "To be" does not show an action. The verb "to be" changes depending on the tense and subject of a sentence.

First, let's take a look at some common ways that we use "be verbs".

1. We use usually them with nouns, adjectives, or prepositional phrase.
  • I am a teacher.
  • He is tired.
  • She was an engineer, but now she is a writer.
  • They were surprised.
  • It is good.
  • It was on the bed.
  • The book is on the desk.
2. Be verbs can be used in the infinitive form – "to be". When used this way, the be verb does not change, but it is still used before nouns, adjectives, or prepositional phrases.
  • I want to be a good father.
  • You have to be ready.
  • There is no reason to be scared.
3. We can use be verbs after modals (will, should, can, might, could, would, etc.). Again, the verb "to be" is used before nouns, adjectives, or prepositional phrases.
  • He will be tired when he comes.
  • We should be ready when it is time.
  • It could be good.
  • She would be happy to help us.
4. We use be verbs with continuous verb tenses.
  • I am writing a grammar lesson.
  • You are reading a grammar lesson.
  • We were sleeping when he came.
  • It was working yesterday.
5. Be verbs are also used with passive sentences.
  • This was painted by Picasso.
  • It was written by my father.
  • The cookies were made by my mother.
  • It is made in China.
Now, let's see how "be verbs" change depending on the verb tense.

Present Tense

The verb "to be" changes to "am", "is", or "are" in the present tense. It depends on the subject of the sentence.

I am...Sally is... / She is...
You are...The pen is... / It is...
Jon and I are... / We are...The boys are... / They are...
Jon is... / He is...The cookies are... / They are...

Here are some example sentences and questions.
  • She is exhausted.
  • Are you tired?
  • They are best friends.
  • Is he a doctor?
  • What is your name?
  • Where are you?
  • When is the concert?
  • They are fighting.
  • I am studying English.
Past Tense

The verb "to be" changes to "was" or "were" in the past tense. It depends on the subject of the sentence.

I was...Sally was... / She was...
You were...The pen was... / It was...
Jon and I were... / We were...The boys were... / They were...
Jon was... / He was...The cookies were... / They were...

Here are some example sentences and questions.
  • She was angry yesterday.
  • The steak was delicious.
  • They were studying late last night.
  • It was good.
  • The cookies were terrible.
  • What was the name of the movie?
  • Where was the concert?
  • I was studying last night.
Present Perfect

The verb "to be" changes to "been" in the present perfect tense. We often use the verb "to be" instead of "to go" in the present perfect tense.

Here are some example sentences and questions.
  • I have been tired all day.
  • She has been to China.
  • They have been friends for a long time.
  • She has been studying for 3 hours.
  • Have you been to that restaurant?
You can learn a lot more about "be verbs" and how they are used if you study our verb tense lessons.

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