Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

English definition of “be”

See all translations

be

verb  /bi/ ( present tense am  /æm/ , are  /ɑr/ or is  /ɪz/, present participle being  /ˈbi·ɪŋ/, past tense was  /wʌz/ or were  /wɜr/, past participle been  /bɪn/) us  

be verb (RELATIONSHIP)

used to connect two things or a thing with something that it has as a quality or condition: [L] It is cold today. [L] My name is Andy. [L] She is a doctor. [L] How old are you? [L] These books are (= cost) $12.99 each. [L] Please be patient. Be is also used to show the position of a person or thing in space or time: [I always + adv/prep] The food was on the table. [I always + adv/prep] Tony is in trouble again.

be verb (EXIST)

[L] to exist: She apologized for the way things are around here. There was no sound.

be

auxiliary verb  /bi/ us  

be auxiliary verb (CONTINUE)

( present tense am  /æm/ , are  /ɑr/ or is  /ɪz/, present participle being  /ˈbi·ɪŋ/, past tense was  /wʌz/ or were  /wɜr/, past participle been  /bɪn/) used with the present participle of other verbs to describe actions that are or were continuing: You are being very selfish. She was studying to be a lawyer. It is raining. I’ll be coming back (= I plan to come back).

be auxiliary verb (PASSIVE)

( present tense am  /æm/ , are  /ɑr/ or is  /ɪz/, present participle being  /ˈbi·ɪŋ/, past tense was  /wʌz/ or were  /wɜr/, past participle been  /bɪn/) used with the past participle of other verbs to form the passive: He was asked to wait. Please be seated. The World Trade Center was built in the early 1970s.

be auxiliary verb (POSSIBLE CONDITION)

( past tense were  /wər/ or were) used to show the possibility of a condition or of something happening in the future: If I were afraid of you, why would I be here? If you were allowed to have one wish, what would it be? Note: In grammar, this form of be is called the subjunctive.

be auxiliary verb (FUTURE)

( present tense am  /æm/ , are  /ɑr/ or is  /ɪz/, past tense was  /wʌz/ or were  /wɜr/) fml used to say what will happen: [+ to infinitive] The president is to decide this issue very soon.

be auxiliary verb (ALLOW)

( present tense am  /æm/ , are  /ɑr/ or is  /ɪz/, past tense was  /wʌz/ or were  /wɜr/) fml used to tell people they must or should do something: [+ to infinitive] Their mother said they were to play nearby.
(Definition of be from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
What is the pronunciation of be?
Add Cambridge dictionaries to your browser to your website

Definitions of “be” in other dictionaries

Word of the Day

tinsel

long pieces of thin, shiny material used as decoration, especially at Christmas

Word of the Day

Party Talk (The language of party chat)

by Kate Woodford,
December 23, 2014
​​​ With the party season in full swing (= at its busiest now), we consider the language of socializing (= enjoying yourself with other people). We’re looking especially at words and phrases which are used to describe the different ways that people behave at a party and the sort of conversations that party

Read More 

tweleb noun

December 22, 2014
informal a Twitter celebrity; (more specifically, someone who has more than 1,000 followers on Twitter) There were a few old and a few new faces, including a tweleb or two. Expect to see and hear more from these cool kids.

Read More