How to use be

The infinitive to be means to exist or to take place. It’s an irregular verb, and we have to change the form of the verb depending on the tense.

So, we can change be to is, are, was, were, been, or being depending on how we use it. 

And, when we use it in different tenses, we usually use it as a linking verb, particularly in continuous tenses or in the passive voice.

Different Forms of Be in Continuous Tenses

We can use be in the continuous tense to talk about what’s happening right now, or at a specific moment in the past of the future.

Here, the verb form changes depending on the tense. Here are the different continuous structures:

Present continuous: is/are + -ing

  • It is raining right now.

  • We are leaving soon.

Past continuous: was/were + -ing

Present perfect continuous: has/have + been + -ing

Future continuous: will + be + ing

Read more: How to Use the Future Continuous in English

Different Forms of Be in the Passive Voice

We can use the passive voice to talk about rules or policies: when we don’t know the subject, when the subject is obvious, or when we don’t want to focus on the subject.

  • Pets are not allowed inside.

  • She was informed about the project.

  • Renovations are being done at the moment.

  • He has not been invited to this gathering.

Read more: Your Ultimate Guide to the Passive Voice in English

Be in Commands

We usually use commands when we’re telling someone to do something or when we’re making a strong suggestion to someone that we’re familiar with. When we use be in commands, though, we don’t have to change the form:

  • Be yourself!

  • Just be nice!

  • Be there at seven.

Be with Modal Verbs

We use modal verbs to talk about things like possibility, ability, obligation, or to make a request or a suggestion.

In the present tense, we always use modal verbs with a base verb, which is the form that the verb takes before we change it.

So, when we use be with modal verbs like can, could, will, would, must, or should to name a few, we don’t have to change it.

Let’s take a look at a few common modal verbs we can use with be

So, we can use be with will to talk about the future:

We sometimes use be with must or have to when we want to say that something is probably true:

We can use be with would be to talk about an imagined situation that’s not likely to happen:

We use be with should when we want to make a suggestion, when we want to make a guess, or talk about something someone needs to do:

  • You should be Mary Poppins for Halloween.

  • What time is it? It should be almost 11:00.

  • He should be nicer to his staff.

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