- past participle of be.
- to exist or live: Shakespeare's “To be or not to be” is the ultimate question.
- to take place; happen; occur: The wedding was last week.
- to occupy a place or position: The book is on the table.
- to continue or remain as before: Let things be.
- to belong; attend; befall: May good fortune be with you.
- (used as a copula to connect the subject with its predicate adjective, or predicate nominative, in order to describe, identify, or amplify the subject): Martha is tall. John is president. This is she.
- (used as a copula to introduce or form interrogative or imperative sentences): Is that right? Be quiet! Don't be facetious.
- (used with the present participle of another verb to form the progressive tense): I am waiting.
- (used with the present participle or infinitive of the principal verb to indicate future action): She is visiting there next week. He is to see me today.
- (used with the past participle of another verb to form the passive voice): The date was fixed. It must be done.
- (used in archaic or literary constructions with some intransitive verbs to form the perfect tense): He is come. Agamemnon to the wars is gone.
Origin of be
- the past participle of be 1
- bill of exchange
- (in the US) Board of Education
- Bachelor of Education
- Bachelor of Engineering
- to have presence in the realm of perceived reality; exist; liveI think, therefore I am; not all that is can be understood
- (used in the perfect or past perfect tenses only) to pay a visit; gohave you been to Spain?
- to take place; occurmy birthday was last Thursday
- (copula) used as a linking verb between the subject of a sentence and its noun or adjective complement or complementing phrase. In this case be expresses the relationship of either essential or incidental equivalence or identity (John is a man; John is a musician) or specifies an essential or incidental attribute (honey is sweet; Susan is angry). It is also used with an adverbial complement to indicate a relationship of location in space or time (Bill is at the office; the dance is on Saturday)
- (takes a present participle) forms the progressive present tensethe man is running
- (takes a past participle) forms the passive voice of all transitive verbs and (archaically) certain intransitive onesa good film is being shown on television tonight; I am done
- (takes an infinitive) expresses intention, expectation, supposition, or obligationthe president is to arrive at 9.30; you are not to leave before I say so
- (takes a past participle) forms the perfect or past perfect tense of certain intransitive verbs of motion, such as go or comethe last train is gone
- be that as it may the facts concerning (something) are of no importance
Word Origin and History for been
past participle of be. Dismissive slang phrase been there, done that attested from 1994 (been there "had the experience," usually of something disreputable, is from 1880s).
Old English beon, beom, bion "be, exist, come to be, become, happen," from Proto-Germanic *biju- "I am, I will be." This "b-root" is from PIE root *bheue- "to be, exist, grow, come into being," and in addition to the words in English it yielded German present first and second person singular (bin, bist, from Old High German bim "I am," bist "thou art"), Latin perfective tenses of esse (fui "I was," etc.), Old Church Slavonic byti "be," Greek phu- "become," Old Irish bi'u "I am," Lithuanian bu'ti "to be," Russian byt' "to be," etc. It also is behind Sanskrit bhavah "becoming," bhavati "becomes, happens," bhumih "earth, world."
The modern verb to be in its entirety represents the merger of two once-distinct verbs, the "b-root" represented by be and the am/was verb, which was itself a conglomerate. Roger Lass ("Old English") describes the verb as "a collection of semantically related paradigm fragments," while Weekley calls it "an accidental conglomeration from the different Old English dial[ect]s." It is the most irregular verb in Modern English and the most common. Collective in all Germanic languages, it has eight different forms in Modern English:
BE (infinitive, subjunctive, imperative)
AM (present 1st person singular)
ARE (present 2nd person singular and all plural)
IS (present 3rd person singular)
WAS (past 1st and 3rd persons singular)
WERE (past 2nd person singular, all plural; subjunctive)
BEING (progressive & present participle; gerund)
BEEN (perfect participle).
The paradigm in Old English was:
|1st pres.||ic eom|
|2nd pres.||þu eart|
|3rd pres.||he is|
|1st pret.||ic wæs||we wæron|
|2nd pret.||þu wære||ge waeron|
|3rd pret.||heo wæs||hie wæron|
|1st pret. subj.||ic wære||we wæren|
|2nd pret. subj.||þu wære||ge wæren|
|3rd pret. subj.||Egcferð wære||hie wæren|
The "b-root" had no past tense in Old English, but often served as future tense of am/was. In 13c. it took the place of the infinitive, participle and imperative forms of am/was. Later its plural forms (we beth, ye ben, they be) became standard in Middle English and it made inroads into the singular (I be, thou beest, he beth), but forms of are claimed this turf in the 1500s and replaced be in the plural. For the origin and evolution of the am/was branches of this tangle, see am and was.
That but this blow Might be the be all, and the end all. ["Macbeth" I.vii.5]
- The antibody to the hepatitis B e antigen.
- The symbol for beryllium.
Idioms and Phrases with been
In addition to the idioms beginning with be
- be a credit to
- be along
- be big on
- be bound to
- be busted
- be down
- be had
- be in on
- be into
- be my guest
- be off
- be on
- be on to
- be oneself
- be that as it may
- be the death of
- be the end of one
- be the making of
- bed and board
- bed and breakfast
- bed of roses
- bee in one's bonnet
- been around
- been had
- been there, done that
- been to the wars
- beg off
- beg the question
- beg to differ
- begin to see daylight
- begin to see the light
- begin with
- beginning of the end, the
- bell the cat, who will
- bend one's elbow
- bend over backwards
- bend someone's ear
- beside oneself
- beside the point
, also see