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English definition of “be”

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be

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

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

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.
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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.
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(Definition of be from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
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