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English Conjugation of the Verb "to be"

Grammatical conjugation of a verb requires making a systematic list of all forms of the verb for each person, number, and tense. The verb "to be" is the most irregular verb in English. The verb to be is conjugated as follows:

Present Participle:  being
Past participle:been

Person,Number     Present    Past
3rd,singularhe/she/it    iswas

To be, or not to be
- Hamlet

BE as a Linking Verb
The verb "to be" is classified as a linking verb because it shows the condition or existence of the subject. For example:

John is angry.
The students are in the auditorium.
A chair is a piece of furniture.
The money was here yesterday.

The Future Tense
The future is constructed by using "will" plus the infinitive "be". For example:

John will be angry.
The students will be in the auditorium.

BE as an Auxiliary Verb
The verb "to be" is also used in verb phrases as an auxiliary verb. The present progressive is formed by using "am being", "is being", or "are being" plus the past participle of a verb. For example:

The floor is being repaired.

The past progressive is formed by using "was being" or "were being" plus the past participle of a verb. For example:

The suspect was being questioned by the police.

Additional verb tenses with the verb "to be" can be found in the description of the predicate.

Contractions of the verb "to be"
The verb "to be" is often contracted in the present tense when it occurs after pronouns and nouns. The contraction for the third person may be confused with a possessive. For example, the sentence "The boat's sinking" means "The boat is sinking" and the contraction "'s" is part of the verb phrase "is sinking".  However, in a sentence such as "The boat's sinking was a tragedy", the word "boat's" is a possessive form and not a contraction. In this case, "sinking" is a gerund (a present participle verb form used as a noun) and not part of a verb phrase. The contraction "it's" is frequently confused with the possessive pronoun "its".

Contraction Meaning
I'm I am
you're you are
he's, she's, it's     he is, she is, it is
we're we are
they're they are

Negative contractions are formed by appending "n't" to the present and past forms of the verb "to be", as illustrated here:

Contraction   Meaning
isn't is not
aren't are not
wasn't was not
weren't were not

The word "ain't"
"Ain't" was originally derived from the negative contraction of "am not", but in the 19th century it began being used indiscriminately for "is not" and "are not" disregarding person agreement. This misuse associated a stigma with the word "ain't" so that now it is considered substandard or slang. "Ain't" is generally used by people who are illiterate, ignorant, and uneducated. It is not unusual to hear "you ain't", "they ain't", "he ain't", etc., but it is considered wrong, wrong, wrong!  If you want to succeed in life, don't use the word "ain't".

William Shakespeare - To be, or not to be (from Hamlet 3/1)
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. - Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora


- Introduction
- Sentence Types
- Parts of Speech
- Declarative
- - The Subject
- - The Predicate
- - Verbal Phrases
- Interrogative
- Imperative
- Conditional
- Glossary

- Regular verbs
- Irregular verbs
- Verb "to be"
- Verb conjugation