Meaning of BE in English


I. (|)bē, _bi verb

( past first & third singular was (|)wəz, (|)wäz also (|)wȯz ; or dialect were see below ; or war (|)wȧr ; second singular were _wə(r); |wər, +V |wər., |wə̄, +V “ or |wər. also |wə̄r; archaic or Brit (|)w]a(a)(ə)r or ]e(ə)r or ]a(a)ə or ]eə ; or dialect & archaic was or dialect (with “you”) war or archaic (with “thou”) wast _wəst, (|)wäst also (|)wȯst ; or (with “thou”) wert _wə(r)]t, |wər]t, (|)wə̄]t, (|)wəi]t, usu ]d.+V ; plural were or nonstandard & archaic was or dialect war past subjunctive were or nonstandard & archaic was or archic second singular (with “thou”) wert past part been (|)bin, _bən; ben ( in standard speech more often unstressed or with secondary stress than with primary stress ); Brit usually & US sometimes (|)bēn ; or dialect ben (|)ben ; present part be·ing |bēiŋ, |bēēŋ, rapid (|)bēŋ ; or dialect British & archaic been (|)bēn, |bēə̇n ; present first singular am _əm, (|)am also (|)aa(ə)m; after “I” often m ; or dialect is or be second singular (with “you”) are _ə(r), (|)är, (|)ȧ(r; after a vowel-final pronoun often r ; or archaic (with “thou”) art _ə(r)]t, (|)är]t, (|)ȧ]t, +V usu ]d. ; or dialect be or (with “you”) is or dialect British (with “thou”) beest (|)bēst, |bēə̇st ; or (with “thou”) bist (|)bist ; third singular is (|)iz, _əz; after vowels & after vȯiced consonants other than z, zh, & j: often z; after vȯiceless consonants other than s, sh, & ch: often s ; or dialect British be plural are or nonstandard is or dialect & archaic be or archaic been the last like past part been \ ; present subjunctive be or obs second singular (with “thou”) beest )

Etymology: Middle English been, from Old English bēon; akin to Old High German bim am, Old Norse būa to live, dwell, Gothic bauan, Latin fui I have been, futurus about to be, fieri to become, Greek phyein to bring forth, phynai to be born, be, Sanskrit bhavati he is

intransitive verb


a. : to equal in meaning : have the same connotation (sense 3) as

God is love

January is the first month

let x be 10

: represent symbolically

the seven lampstands are the seven churches — Revelations 1:20 (Revised Standard Version)

b. : to constitute the same idea or object as : have individual identity with

the first person I met was my brother

the pianist himself was the composer of the piece

$50 was all I had

c. : to constitute the same class as

these three books are the authoritative works on the president's life

d. : to have a meaning that includes or implies the meaning of

fish are vertebrates

red is a color

: have a (specified) qualification or characterization

the leaves are green

this book is heavy

e. : to belong as an individual to the class of

the fish you caught was a trout

f. : to belong as a class to the larger class of

some animals with horns and divided hoofs are graminivorous animals

— used regularly in senses 1a through 1f as the copula of simple predication

g. : signify : amount to

her death was nothing to him

h. : to show oneself as an outstanding example of — used with main stress in spoken sentences

the doctor pleased the parents by commenting, “That is a baby”

i. : to constitute genuinely : actualize well the type of

one of the few great elegies which are elegies — Douglas Bush

j. : to seem to consist of : show oneself gripped or dominated by (a feeling)

she was all scorn at the proposition

: become completely covered with

road was all mud


a. : to exist either absolutely or in relations or under conditions specified : have an objective existence : have reality or actuality : live

Thee, which wert and art and evermore shalt be — Reginald Heber

I think, therefore I am

— often used with there

once upon a time there was a knight

there is a wreck ahead

b. : to have, maintain, or occupy a place, situation, or position : show a certain characteristic — often used with a prepositional phrase

the book is on the table

he was at ease

c. : to remain unmolested, unbothered, or uninterrupted — used only in infinitive form

let him be ; stop pestering him

d. : happen , occur : take place

the concert was last night

where will the meeting be

e. archaic : belong , pertain

to thine and Albany's issue be this perpetual — Shakespeare


(1) : to come or go : journey

we will be on our way shortly

have you been home since Christmas

(2) : to make a stay : show oneself or be present

they will be in town all week

was your sister at the party last night

— not used in the present; use of the past tense followed by to

I was to town yesterday

often considered nonstandard

g. : to come around in due course often in following a schedule or appointed round — used only in perfect forms

has the postman been this morning

h. substandard : act — used only in the perfect; used as an intensive

see what you have been and done

3. now dialect Britain : to stand good for expense (as in a treat)

offering to be his friend's dinner

verbal auxiliary

1. : to undergo an action — used with the past participle of transitive verbs as a passive-voice auxiliary

the money was found

German is spoken here

the house is being built

2. : to perform a continuous action : be supposed to perform a future action — used as the auxiliary of the present participle in the so-called progressive tenses, usually expressing continuous action

he is reading

I have been sleeping

the house is being built

but sometimes in present-tense form expressing future noncontinuous action

he is leaving tomorrow

3. : to have changed place or condition as a result of completing an action — used with the past participle of certain intransitive verbs as an auxiliary forming archaic perfect tenses

Christ is risen from the dead — 1 Cor 15:20 (Douay Version)

the minstrel boy to the war is gone — Thomas Moore

4. : become supposed : become destined — used with the infinitive with to to express futurity, arrangement in advance, or obligation

I am to interview him today

he was to become one of the most famous men of his century

you are to repay the loan in monthly installments

— usually not used in the form of an infinitive or participle

5. : to undergo a continuous action : be in the process of — used in a passive sense with the present participle or with the gerund preceded by the prefix a- or the preposition a

while the ark was building — 1 Pet 3:20 (NCE)

when the ark was a building — 1 Pet 3:20 (Douay Version)

— now usually replaced by the passive construction with being followed by the past participle, as in 1 and 2

- be oneself

- to be sure


variant of bee

Webster's New International English Dictionary.      Новый международный словарь английского языка Webster.