be definition, meaning - what is be in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online

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 uk   us   strong /biː/ weak /bi/ // (being, was, were, been)

be verb (DESCRIPTION)

A1 [L] used to say something about a person, thing, or state, to show a permanent or temporary quality, state, job, etc.: He is rich. It's cold today. I'm Andy. That's all for now. What do you want to be (= what job do you want to do) when you grow up? These books are (= cost) $3 each. Being afraid of the dark, she always slept with the light on. Never having been ill himself, he wasn't a sympathetic listener. Be quiet! [+ -ing verb] The problem is deciding what to do. [+ to infinitive] The hardest part will be to find a replacement. [+ that] The general feeling is that she should be asked to leave. It's not that I don't like her - it's just that we rarely agree on anything!A1 [I usually + adv/prep] used to show the position of a person or thing in space or time: The food was already on the table. Is anyone there? The meeting is now (= will happen) next Tuesday. There's a hair in my soup. [L] used to show what something is made of: Is this plate pure gold?
More examples

be verb (ALLOW)

[+ to infinitive] formal used to say that someone should or must do something: You're to sit in the corner and keep quiet. Their mother said they were not to (= not allowed to) play near the river. There's no money left - what are we to do?
More examples

be verb (FUTURE)

[+ to infinitive] formal used to show that something will happen in the future: We are to (= we are going to) visit Australia in the spring. She was never to see (= she never saw) her brother again. [+ to infinitive] used in conditional sentences to say what might happen: If I were to refuse they'd be very annoyed.formal Were I to refuse they'd be very annoyed.
More examples

be verb (CAN)

[+ to infinitive] used to say what can happen: The exhibition of modern prints is currently to be seen at the City Gallery.

be verb (EXIST)

[I] to exist or live: formal Such terrible suffering should never be.old use or literary By the time the letter reached them their sister had ceased to be (= had died).
Phrasal verbs

be

auxiliary verb uk   us   strong /biː/ weak /bi/ // (being, was, were, been)

be auxiliary verb (CONTINUE)

A2 [+ -ing verb] used with the present participle of other verbs to describe actions that are or were still continuing: I'm still eating. She's studying to be a lawyer. The audience clearly wasn't enjoying the show. You're always complaining. I'll be coming back (= I plan to come back) on Tuesday.
More examples

be auxiliary verb (PASSIVE)

A2 [+ past participle] used with the past participle of other verbs to form the passive: I'd like to go but I haven't been asked. Troublemakers are encouraged to leave. A body has been discovered by the police.
More examples
(Definition of be from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © 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

gale-force

(of winds) very strong

Word of the Day

They sometimes go here and they never go there: using adverbs of frequency

by Liz Walter,
April 29, 2015
Sometimes, always, often, never: these are some of the most common words in English.  Unfortunately, they are also some of the words that cause the most problems for students. Many of my students put them in the wrong place, often because that’s where they go in their own languages. They say things

Read More 

Evel abbreviation

May 04, 2015
English votes for English laws; the idea that only English (as opposed to Scottish, Welsh or Irish) MPs should be allowed to vote for laws that affect only England Yet these are the two principal constitutional proposals that have come from the Conservative party in its kneejerk response to Ukip’s English nationalism and

Read More