Sunday, July 23, 2017

Verbs: Episode 7, BE—again!

We touched on the basic reasons why the verb, “be” is so complex.  One of those reasons is that be is the main building block for other verb tenses—one of the future tenses, the progressive tense, and the perfect tense. 

But all by itself, not working with other verbs, be can be a complex verb with lots of different meanings.

Let’s take a quick look at the conjugation. 

I am
I was
I will be
I have been
You/we/they are
You were
You will be
You have been
He/she/it is
He was
He will be
He has been

Be takes the prize for the most irregular verb.  The verb changes with every tense and with almost every subject.  And most of the forms are not similar to the base form “be.”

What an awesomely cool verb.

Let's take a quick look at the first level of meaning: to exist. 

Basic linguistic theory breaks down English clauses into 10 patterns.  The first 3 use “be” verbs.  Let’s take a quick look at them.

1.     SUBJECT + BE + ADJECTIVE => She is creative.  This classroom was cold.  We are old. 
2.    SUBJECT + BE + NOUN => She will be a teacher.  We are Christians.  They are kids. 
3.    SUBJECT + BE + ADVERBIAL OF TIME OR SPACE (this is a cool way to say a preposition or adjective that can change and describes position or time) => She is late.  We were at the Writers’ Center in Broadripple.  The dogs were in the garage.

The meaning of be is generally the same in these sentences, but the use is slightly different.  All of these types of sentences use the verb be to show that the subjects possess a quality, but in #1, the quality is an adjective, in #2, the quality is a thing, and in #3, the quality is place or position.   

Let’s look at this in a different way, and pull in some linking verbs next time…

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