To be – present and past
The form of the verb to be is am (contracted to 'm), is ('s) and are ('re) in the present tense and was/were in the past. To be is used as an auxiliary verb, to form continuous tenses and the passive, and as a main verb. Here we are looking at it as a main verb.
After the verb to be we use an adjective phrase, a noun phrase, a preposition phrase or an adverb phrase.
Oh, wow, that sounds complicated.
No, don't worry. I'm going to give you lots of examples. Here are some examples with adjectives or adjective phrases:
I'm a bit tired.
He was late last time too.
The journey was fantastic.
My brother isn't very tall.
Here are examples with nouns or noun phrases:
She was an English teacher for years.
They're both teachers at our school.
That's my laptop.
And here are examples with adverb and preposition phrases:
I'm here at the café, and you're not!
Are you there yet?
Your phone's in my bag.
Where were you at 5 o'clock?
So you use contractions (I'm, you're, he's, etc.) in the present. Can you use contractions in the past?
No, we don't contract was or were.
I was just like you when your Dad and I were together.
What about forming questions and negatives?
They are quite easy. For questions, you just change the order of the subject and the verb. Sometimes you need to add a question word.
Is he in his room?
Where are you?
What was that noise?
For negatives, you just add not. If you're speaking, don't forget to use a contraction.
We aren't ready yet.
Is Daisy at home? ~ No, she isn't.
Those books weren't on the table. I don't know where they are.
I think I've heard a different type of contraction. Like We're not ready yet.
Yes, that's also possible. Also:
Is Daisy at home? ~ No, she's not.
But there's only one form of the first person negative:
I'm not interested in football.
And there's only one way to contract the past negative form:
She wasn't always a writer.
There weren't any peppers in the supermarket.
To be is used in a lot of everyday questions, isn't it? Can you give me some more examples?
OK, in this table there are some common areas where we use to be.
|Age||How old are you?||I'm 18.|
|Place||Where are you from?||I'm from Beijing.|
|Nationality||What's your nationality?||I'm Brazilian.|
|Health||How are you?||I'm very well, thanks.|
|People||What's she like?||She's really nice.|
|Prices||How much is it?||It's £3.50.|
What about Where were you born? ~I was born in London. Isn't that with to be?
Yes, but that's a passive. We'll look at passives another day.
'To be or not to be.'
And that's Shakespeare. We'll look at Shakespeare another day too!