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be - definition and synonyms

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verb strong    be pronunciation in British English
/biː/ weak    be pronunciation in British English
Word Forms
you we theyare
present participlebeing
past tense
I he she itwas
you we theywere
past participlebeen
Be can have many different forms depending on its subject and on its tense:
present tense
I am
he/she/it is
we/you/they are
past tense
I/he/she/it was
we/you/they were
past participle
present participle
Be can be used in the following ways:
as an auxiliary verb in progressive verb tenses or in passive forms (followed by a present participle or a past participle): The train is leaving.A window was broken.
as a verb (followed by an infinitive with ‘to’): She is to marry Lord Stanhope.All books are to be returned by Friday.The party was to be a surprise.
as a linking verb (followed by an adjective or noun complement): Dad was ill.His wife is a doctor. (followed by an adverb or preposition): The children are in bed.
Questions and negatives that are formed without ‘do’: Are you busy?The book was not expensive.
Be is often used in question tags: You weren’t listening, were you?It’s cold, isn’t it?
  1. 1
    [auxiliary verb] used for forming the progressive tenses of verbs, that are used for showing actions that are in progress at a particular point in time

    Is everyone listening?

    I’m studying English Literature.

  2. 2
    [auxiliary verb] used for forming the passive form of verbs

    Her husband was killed in a car accident.

    The orchestra will be conducted by David Norton.

  3. 3
    [linking verb] used for giving information about someone or something, by giving their name, job, position etc, describing them, or saying where they are

    Calvin Schultz is our Marketing Director.

    He wants to be an actor when he leaves school.

    It was a cold frosty morning.

    Baltimore is not far from Washington.

    Tom’s from a small town in Canada.

    Who’s in charge of the Finance Department?

    Nancy is tall and very thin.

    Synonyms and related words
  4. 4
    [linking verb] used for saying how someone behaves, or for telling them how to behave

    Be quiet! I can’t hear what they’re saying.

    He’s just being silly again – pay no attention.

    Synonyms and related words
  5. 5
    [intransitive] formal to exist

    a way of life that has long since ceased to be

    Synonyms and related words
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a lifestyle focussing on simple pleasures such as comfort and cosiness in the home, and spending time with friends and family

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a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

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