be Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary
Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

Meaning of “be” in the English Dictionary

"be" in British English

See all translations

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?
More examples

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?
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)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.
More examples

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.
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 Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"be" in American English

See all translations

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)
What is the pronunciation of be?
Add Cambridge dictionaries to your browser to your website
Word of the Day

harvest

to pick and collect crops, or to collect plants, animals, or fish to eat

Word of the Day

In London but at the station: prepositions for talking about travel
In London but at the station: prepositions for talking about travel
by Liz Walter,
September 02, 2015
Several readers have asked for information on prepositions, so I will start with a blog post that looks at an area where they are really important: travel. The first thing to remember is that we use to (and not ‘in’) after the verb go: We are going to London. I went to

Read More 

parklet noun
parklet noun
August 31, 2015
a public outdoor space that may be associated with a local business but where anyone can sit Pop-up cafes in NY are what’s actually called parklets in many other places around the country.

Read More