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Meaning of “be” in the English Dictionary

"be" in British English

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beverb

uk   strong /biː/ weak /bi/ weak // us   strong /biː/ weak /bi/ weak // 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?

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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.
Phrasal verbs

beauxiliary verb

uk   strong /biː/ /bi/ // us   /biː/ /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.

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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 Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"be" in American English

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beverb

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

beauxiliary verb

us   /bi/
  • be auxiliary verb (CONTINUE)

present tense am /æm/ are /ɑr/ is /ɪz/ , present participle being /ˈbi·ɪŋ/ , past tense was /wʌz/ 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/ is /ɪz/ , present participle being /ˈbi·ɪŋ/ , past tense was /wʌz/ 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/ 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/ is /ɪz/ , past tense was /wʌz/ 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/ is /ɪz/ , past tense was /wʌz/ 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)
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