To be – present and past

To be – present and past

Instructions: 

As you watch the video, look at the examples of to be. They are in red in the subtitles. Then read the conversation below to learn more. Finally, do the grammar exercises to check you understand, and can use, to be correctly.

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Daisy has a date with Jack and Sophie is working in Brazil.

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!

 

Total votes: 409

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Discussion

What would you like to be when you've finished studying?

Comments

Teen3's picture
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Hello we are teens 3.
Julieta would like to sleep
Lucas would like to sleep too
Tomas would like to sleep and play with the play station at the same time.
Juani would like to go to hospital to work.... as a doctor.

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7 users have voted.
Natalija's picture
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804x

I'd like to be an architect, it's such a lovely occupation, and my dream since I was 10. I hope my dream'll be fulfilled in few years.

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54 users have voted.
Simon's picture
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Hi Maline. So what subject would you like to teach? What age-group would you like to teach? 

When you have finished you're exams you should think about doing a teacher training course at university. Good luck!

Simon (LearnEnglish Teens Team)

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57 users have voted.
JoEditor's picture
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Hi Rihanna

We're happy to hear that you like the website. I'm sorry but you can't download the videos at the moment.

Jo - LearnEnglish Teens Team

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100 users have voted.
exdxb's picture
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Hi Jo,
I can listen to the video, but can't see it - do I have to download or install something to be able to watch it?

Thanks

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93 users have voted.

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