Old English wesan, wæs, wæron 1st and 3rd person singular of wesan "to remain," from Proto-Germanic *wesanan (cf. Old Saxon wesan, Old Norse vesa, Old Frisian wesa, Middle Dutch wesen, Dutch wezen, Old High German wesen "being, existence," Gothic wisan "to be"), from PIE root *wes- "remain, abide, dwell" (cf. Sanskrit vasati "he dwells, stays;" cf. vestal). Wesan was a distinct verb in Old English, but it came to supply the past tense of am. This began to develop in Proto-Germanic, because it is also the case in Gothic and Old Norse. See be.
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|
That but this blow Might be the be all, and the end all. ["Macbeth" I.vii.5]
The symbol for the element beryllium.
The symbol for beryllium.