be Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary Cambridge dictionaries logo

Meaning of “be” in the English Dictionary

"be" in British English

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beverb

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 ​temporaryquality, ​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 ​sympatheticlistener. Be ​quiet! [+ -ing verb] The ​problem is deciding what to do. [+ to infinitive] The ​hardestpart will be tofind a ​replacement. [+ that] The ​generalfeeling is that she should be ​asked to ​leave. It's not that I don't like her - it's just that we ​rarelyagree 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 ​platepuregold?

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  • be verb (ALLOW)

[+ to infinitive] formal used to say that someone should or must do something: You're tosit in the ​corner and ​keepquiet. Their ​mother said they were not to (= not ​allowed to)play near the ​river. There's no ​moneyleft - 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)visitAustralia in the ​spring. She was never tosee (= she never ​saw) her ​brother again. [+ to infinitive] used in conditionalsentences to say what might ​happen: If I were torefuse they'd be very ​annoyed.formal Were I torefuse they'd be very ​annoyed.

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  • be verb (CAN)

[+ to infinitive] used to say what can ​happen: The ​exhibition of ​modernprints is ​currently to be ​seen at the City Gallery.
  • be verb (EXIST)

[I] to ​exist or ​live: formal Such ​terriblesuffering should never be.old use or literary By the ​time the ​letterreached them ​theirsister had ​ceased to be (= had ​died).
Phrasal verbs

beauxiliary verb

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

A2 [+ -ing verb] used with the ​presentparticiple of other ​verbs to ​describeactions that are or were still ​continuing: I'm still ​eating. She's ​studying to be a ​lawyer. The ​audienceclearly 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/ or is  /ɪz/ , present participle being  /ˈbi·ɪŋ/ , past tense was  /wʌz/ or 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/ or is  /ɪz/ , present participle being  /ˈbi·ɪŋ/ , past tense was  /wʌz/ or were  /wɜr/ , past participle been  /bɪn/ ) used with the ​presentparticiple of other ​verbs to ​describeactions 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 ​tellpeople they must or should do something: [+ to infinitive] Their ​mother said they were to ​playnearby.
(Definition of be from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)
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