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Conjugating the Verb "To Be"

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Now let’s take the verb to be through a complete conjugation. But first, consider its uniqueness.

To Be, Unique Among All Verbs

In the entire English language, one verb stands out: the verb to be. It serves more roles than most verbs, for it can serve as a main verb and a primary auxiliary verb. As an auxiliary, it serves the vital roles of forming the passive voice (The ball was hit by John) and the progressive tense (John was hitting the ball over the fence).

Miss Hamrick could never make up a chant about the irregular forms of the verb to be because it doesn’t have just one past-tense form like the other irregular verbs do. It does have the standard one-word present participle, being, and the standard one-word past participle, been.

But there’s not a chant like drink-drank-drunk available for the verb to be. Instead of using the infinitive form for the present tense and one word for each of the standard four forms (infinitive, past tense, past participle, present participle), the verb to be uses three words to express present tense and two words to express past tense.

Thus, the verb to be uses eight words to express the standard forms:

To Be, Eight Words Showing Its Various Forms

You need eight words when conjugating the verb to be:

Form To Be
Infinitive 1. be
Present Tense 2. am 3. is 4. are
Past Tense 5. was 6. were
Past Participle 7. been
Present Participle 8. being

 

Irregular Verbs, Five Words Showing Various Forms

In contrast, only five words are needed to show the forms of the irregular verb see:

Form To See
Infinitive 1. see
Present Tense 1. see (same as infinitive) 2. sees (third-person singular)
Past Tense 3. saw
Past Participle 4. seen
Present Participle 5. seeing

 

It’s vital, of course, that you learn to conjugate the verb to be throughout all tenses, for you’ll need all these forms when you create the progressive tenses and the passive voice. Study, please, a conjugation of the verb to be:

 

Present Tense, To Be

Here’s the present tense of the verb to be:

Person Singular Plural
First Person I am We are
Second Person You are You are
Third Person He-she-it is They are

 

Past Tense, To Be

Here’s the past tense of the verb to be:

Person Singular Plural
First Person I was We were
Second Person You were You were
Third Person He-she-it was They were

 

Future Tense, To Be

Here’s the future tense of the verb to be:

Person Singular Plural
First Person I will be We will be
Second Person You will be You will be
Third Person He-she-it will be They will be

 

Present-Perfect Tense, To Be

Here’s the present-perfect tense of the verb to be:

Person Singular Plural
First Person I have been We have been
Second Person You have been You have been
Third Person He-she-it has been They have been

 

Past-Perfect Tense, To Be

Here’s the past-perfect tense of the verb to be:

Person Singular Plural
First Person I had been We had been
Second Person You had been You had been
Third Person He-she-it had been They had been

 

Future-Perfect Tense, To Be

Here’s the future-perfect tense of the verb to be:

Person Singular Plural
First Person I will have been We will have been
Second Person You will have been You will have been
Third Person He-she-it will have been They will have been

 

Hard Copy

You may download our entire discussion of the Parts of Speech. Simply download the Grammar eBook Understanding the Parts of Speech.

 

Previous: Conjugating Irregular Verbs Next: Conjugating in the Progressive Aspect

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