There are 3 main definitions of be in English:

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be 1

Pronunciation: /bē/

verb (singular present am /am/; are /är/; is /iz/; plural present are; first and third singular past was /wəz/ /wäz/; second singular past and plural past were /wər/; present subjunctive be; past subjunctive were; present participle being /ˈbēiNG/; past participle been /bin/)

1 (usually there is/are) Exist: there are no easy answers there once was a man there must be something wrong I think, therefore I am
More example sentences
  • Yet he had a habit of asking awkward questions to which there were no easy answers.
  • He added that there is a possibility of the museum being housed in the new heritage centre once it is completed.
  • There was a form of Hebrew that existed before they were conquered.
exist, have being, have existence;
live, be alive, have life, breathe, draw breath, be extant
1.1Be present: there is a boy sitting on the step there were no curtains around the showers Are there any castles in this area?
More example sentences
  • There is a shop on-campus in case you forget anything but its not open 24 hours per day.
  • There were no decorations on the plain walls.
  • Was there a swimming pool there?
2 [with adverbial] Occur; take place: the exhibition will be in November the opening event is on October 16 that was before the war
More example sentences
  • The meeting will be in Washington on Tuesday.
  • The party is on Friday and in about half an hour we're going to buy the booze.
  • That visit, of course, will be in December.
2.1Occupy a position in space: the Salvation Army store was on his left she was not at the window
More example sentences
  • I made us something to eat while she was in the shower.
  • The small bottle of sleeping pills was on the sideboard by the lamp.
  • He had been in Richmond to attend a concert held at one of the local community centres.
be situated, be located, be found, be present, be set, be positioned, be placed, be installed
2.2Stay in the same place or condition: she was here until about ten-thirty he’s a tough customer—let him be
More example sentences
  • He's been in his room all day.
  • They showed up at about 11:00am, and they were there until 5:00pm that evening.
  • They were at the scene for 90 minutes, helping to free the victims and clear the road.
remain, stay, last, continue, survive, endure, persist, prevail;
wait, linger, hold on, hang on
2.3Attend: the days when she was in school
More example sentences
  • Don't worry, I'll be there tomorrow.
  • She's been to business school, and is now a bookkeeper.
  • I am at Oxford University and am struggling to decide whether to consider further studies in the US or at Cambridge.
2.4Come; go; visit: he’s from Missouri I have just been to Thailand the doctor’s been here twice today
More example sentences
  • I had only been to Italy as a child and Richard had been twice before and he loved it.
  • The last three years we've been touring all around Europe and we have even been to Brazil twice.
  • They have been there twice before but hope this time they will make it third time lucky.
3 [as copular verb] Having the state, quality, identity, nature, role, etc., specified: Amy was 91 the floor was uneven I want to be a teacher father was not well his hair’s brown it will be Christmas soon “Be careful,” Mr. Carter said
More example sentences
  • Her father was an art teacher and she went to sixth form in the school where he taught.
  • His work in this area was considerable, including studies into the nature of history.
  • All the incidents were of a violent nature and included attacks by door staff on customers.
3.1Cost: the tickets were $25
More example sentences
  • I went up to the bartender and asked him, ‘how much is that wine?’
  • ‘How much are those?’ a couple of kids asked.
  • Tickets for the black tie event are £50 each.
3.2Amount to: one and one is two two sixes are twelve
More example sentences
  • 27 plus 50 is 77.
  • Yes, five tens are fifty.
  • How much is that in dollars?
3.3Represent: let A be a square matrix of order n
More example sentences
  • If x is the perpendicular distance from the shore to the target, y is the distance from the point on the shore opposite the target to the point at which the dog plunges into the water.
  • In the allegory, the Scarecrow is the farmers and the Tin Woodman is the urban working class.
  • In this story, the owner of the vineyard is God, the keeper of the vineyard is Jesus, and the tree represents God's children.
3.4Signify: we were everything to each other
More example sentences
  • She was the world to him, and his life was not complete without her.
  • It was just pennies to me, but it was everything for him.
  • A million dollars is nothing to these people.
3.5Consist of; constitute: the monastery was several three-story buildings
More example sentences
  • The house was one large room with a fireplace which served as living room, kitchen and general quarters.
  • The temple is a number of buildings surrounding this man-made pool where devotees gather around and bathe themselves to purify and cure of any sickness.
  • Her bed was a wooden slat, shared with nine people.
4 informal Say: when I got there, they were like “What are you doing here?”

auxiliary verb

1Used with a present participle to form continuous tenses: they are coming he had been reading she will be waiting
More example sentences
  • I have been reading many letters with regards to Gravesend and Dartford and how bad they are.
  • I have been reading this newspaper regularly for years and have never written in before.
  • A fourth male is believed to have been waiting outside in a white Ford Transit van.
2Used with a past participle to form the passive mood: it was done it is said his book will be published
More example sentences
  • A couple of weeks ago a book was published in America that elaborated on exactly this theme.
  • A man with a laugh in his voice recounted how he was shot down, landing in a field in his shirt and tie.
  • His voice was drowned by the shattering roar of a jet plane passing over the chimney pot.
3 [with infinitive] Used to indicate something due to happen: construction is to begin next summer I was to meet him at 6:30
More example sentences
  • I was to meet up with my two travelling companions in an open air restaurant on edge of Timbuctou.
  • The two clubs were to meet at Lismore in a match many considered a grand final preview.
  • They were to meet in a restaurant and pose as two friends trying to patch up some hard times.
3.1Used to express obligation or necessity: you are to follow these orders they said I was to remain on board
More example sentences
  • The rest were to follow in alphabetical order.
  • The goods or chattels are to remain in the custody of the bailiffs for twenty days.
  • They were to do whatever they felt necessary or advisable to fulfil that function.
3.2Used to express possibility: these snakes are to be found in North America she was nowhere to be seen
More example sentences
  • She was to be found here too.
  • Neither a dialling nor an engaged tone was to be heard, only the sound of a line that had been pulled.
  • Monkeys are to be found around the crop growing and savanna areas.
3.3Used to hypothesize about something that might happen: if I were to lose if I was to tell you, you’d think I was crazy were she to cure me, what could I offer her?
More example sentences
  • If I were to order costs, that is a point that counsel could take before the costs judge.
  • If I were to keep a reading diary like this, what would my twelve favourite books be?
  • If you were to meet me at a party I would not talk about myself in any great depth and I had no intention of doing so on the web.
4 archaic Used with the past participle of intransitive verbs to form perfect tenses: I am returned all humanity is fallen


For a discussion of whether it is correct to say that must be he at the door and it is I rather than that must be him at the door and it is me, see personal pronoun (usage).



as/that was

archaic As someone or something was previously called: General Dunstaple had married Miss Hughes that was
More example sentences
  • He was very friendly and turned out to have gone to the London College of Communication (or London School of Printing, as was) himself, which is always useful when arranging work experience.
  • I was in Yugoslavia, as was, at the time.

the be-all and end-all

informal A feature of an activity or a way of life that is of greater importance than any other.
Example sentences
  • A lot of people see speed cameras as the be-all and end-all of traffic management.
  • ‘I wanted to show that having a husband and children isn't the be-all and end-all, it's not nirvana either personally or otherwise’.
  • I still love acting but it's not the be-all and end-all any more.

be oneself

Act naturally, according to one’s character and instincts.
Example sentences
  • So I just had to be myself, unless the character demanded something outside of my own personality.
  • By just being myself I naturally attract the type of people I would otherwise want to attract and repel the people I would otherwise want to repel.
  • The result is a satisfying motion picture that wins its audience over because the characters are allowed to be themselves.

be that as it may

see may1.

been there, done that

see there.

not be oneself

Not feel well.
Example sentences
  • Funny things were happening to me and I was simply not myself.
  • With his head down, he was positively not himself this morning.
  • For that matter, you were not yourself yesterday, and you will not be tomorrow.


[in combination] Of the future: my bride-to-be

Phrasal verbs


be about

see about.

be off

Go away; leave: he was anxious to be off
More example sentences
  • I've just had a call to say that things have moved on a bit, so we might be off again tomorrow morning.
  • And now be off with you, for I am going to sleep.
  • As usual I was keen to be off so we arrived at the bus station with 15 minutes to wait for the bus up to the airport.


Old English bēon, an irregular and defective verb, whose full conjugation derives from several originally distinct verbs. The forms am and is are from an Indo-European root shared by Latin sum and est. The forms was and were are from an Indo-European root meaning 'remain'. The forms be and been are from an Indo-European root shared by Latin fui 'I was', fio 'I become' and Greek phuein 'bring forth, cause to grow'. The origin of are is uncertain.

Words that rhyme with be

absentee, açai, addressee, adoptee, agree, allottee, amputee, appellee, appointee, appraisee, après-ski, assignee, asylee, attendee, bailee, bain-marie, Bangui, bargee, bawbee, Bea, bee, bootee, bouquet garni, bourgeoisie, Brie, BSc, buckshee, Capri, cc, chimpanzee, cohabitee, conferee, consignee, consultee, Cree, debauchee, decree, dedicatee, Dee, degree, deportee, dernier cri, detainee, devisee, devotee, divorcee, draftee, dree, Dundee, dungaree, eau-de-vie, emcee, employee, endorsee, en famille, ennui, enrollee, escapee, esprit, evacuee, examinee, expellee, fee, fiddle-de-dee, flea, flee, fleur-de-lis, foresee, franchisee, free, fusee (US fuzee), Gardaí, garnishee, gee, ghee, glee, goatee, grandee, Grand Prix, grantee, Guarani, guarantee, he, HMRC, indictee, inductee, internee, interviewee, invitee, jamboree, Jaycee, jeu d'esprit, key, knee, Lea, lee, legatee, Leigh, lessee, Ley, licensee, loanee, lychee, manatee, Manichee, maquis, Marie, marquee, me, Midi, mortgagee, MSc, nominee, obligee, Otomi, parolee, Parsee, parti pris, patentee, Pawnee, payee, pea, pee, permittee, plc, plea, pledgee, pollee, presentee, promisee, quay, ratatouille, referee, refugee, releasee, repartee, retiree, returnee, rupee, scot-free, scree, sea, secondee, see, settee, Shanxi, Shawnee, shchi, she, shea, si, sirree, ski, spree, standee, suttee, tant pis, tea, tee, tee-hee, Tennessee, testee, the, thee, three, thuggee, Tiree, Torquay, trainee, Tralee, transferee, tree, Trincomalee, trustee, tutee, twee, Twi, undersea, vestee, vis-à-vis, wagon-lit, Waikiki, warrantee, we, wee, whee, whoopee, ye, yippee, Zuider Zee

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Syllabification: be

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There are 3 main definitions of be in English:

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Be 2


The chemical element beryllium.

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Syllabification: Be

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There are 3 main definitions of be in English:

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BE 3


1Bachelor of Education.
2Bachelor of Engineering.
4Black English.

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Syllabification: BE

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