To be – present and past

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


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.


Daisy: Jack? Where are you? I’m here at the café ... and you’re ... um ... not! So, I imagine something happened. Mmmm ... The plan was to meet at the café at 6, wasn’t it?

Daisy: Hi, Mum, it’s me. Are you there yet?
Mum: Yes, love, I’m here. The journey was fantastic. The airline was so nice, put me in Business Class.
Daisy: Great. Lucky you. 
Mum: Are you OK, Daisy?
Daisy: Well, no ... not really. I’m here in the café ... and Jack’s not here ... it’s OK though, he was late last time too.
Mum: Oh, so, that’s OK, is it?
Daisy: Well, you know what I mean.
Mum: I was just like you when I was with your dad.
Daisy: Mmmm. Really?
Mum: He was always late, but he always had a great excuse!
Daisy: Yeah, I can imagine. Mum, I’ve got to go. Alfie’s just appeared! Speak soon.

Alfie: Was that your mum?
Daisy: Yeah.
Alfie: Where is she now?
Daisy: Brazil this week.
Alfie: Wow, her job is so cool.
Daisy: Yeah, and now all the hotels ask her to write about them, the airlines give her free tickets, restaurants give her free meals and she goes on amazing trips ... yeah, I guess it is a dream job.
Alfie: Was she always a writer?
Daisy: No, she was an English teacher for years, travelled around, worked in different countries. She only started writing when she came back to England and met my dad. Her blog was one of the first travel blogs though.
Alfie: She got into blogging just at the right time then?
Daisy: I guess so. But all jobs are boring if you do them every day.
Alfie: I don’t know. Travelling the world for free and writing about it ... no boss ...
Daisy: Sorry, Alfie, I’ve got to go – look, it’s Jack ... with Emilia.
Alfie: Oh ... Daisy. Are you OK?
Daisy: Yeah, I’m fine, Alfie. See you later, OK?
Alfie: See you, Daisy.

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!



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

Average: 3.2 (16 votes)
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Submitted by ayhon on Mon, 08/07/2023 - 09:34

when I finish studying I would like to be a master software engineer just to get some experience at first then I like launching my business

Submitted by cherry00 on Sat, 07/30/2022 - 11:05

I'd like to go at university and then I'm going to travel around the world. I'd like to be an actress or a singer.

Submitted by qcr7eren on Sun, 06/05/2022 - 18:59

When i finish study im playing computer games
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Submitted by JackBellatrix on Thu, 10/14/2021 - 07:30

When i finish study i play at videogames or go out

Submitted by Sol04 on Fri, 10/08/2021 - 10:01

When I finish study, I would like work and travel, learn Spanish and obviosly go to Spain

Submitted by Gianfrancioschio on Fri, 10/08/2021 - 10:00

In two years I will finish school and I want to be an excellent pastry chef.

Submitted by Arivelde on Wed, 03/24/2021 - 20:15

When I am done with my studies, I want to be a Business men, and try to get enough money to travel the world like Daisy and Oliver's mum, without having to work wile I am there. And also to be able to take my family with me.
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Submitted by Cfvdv on Mon, 03/22/2021 - 21:31

When I finish studying I want to be a graphic designer. I really like to play with images on the computer.

Submitted by Didik on Mon, 03/15/2021 - 18:48

I am not sure what I will be after studying : ( . But I have interest in various subjects, History, Math, Geography politycal maps, Computer and mobile strategy games.

Submitted by hermione123 on Wed, 03/17/2021 - 13:02

Cool, i never know anyone who loves history, I'm not really good at it. but i know many of my friends love and good at math. I guess math is kind of fun if you routinely practice, and you're challenged to be a problem-solver.

In reply to by Didik

Submitted by hermione123 on Thu, 12/31/2020 - 23:35

i'd like to be a children's book illustrator : )
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Submitted by Languizir on Sat, 09/05/2020 - 11:45

After I study, I would like to be a Pilot.

Submitted by Luna on Thu, 08/27/2020 - 12:48

When I've finished studying, I would like to be a baker.
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Submitted by Giovannichoi on Tue, 06/23/2020 - 12:23

I want to be a musical star... as you know, and also I want to write a novel, too!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by TR790 on Wed, 05/20/2020 - 13:42

I would like to travel around the world and know about different cultures.
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Submitted by Marllavilhosa on Fri, 05/15/2020 - 13:57

I would like to be a lawyer

Submitted by bea_mara on Sun, 04/05/2020 - 21:06

I don't know what I would like to be in the future. For now I just want to think about school.

Submitted by giorgia_marchetti on Wed, 05/06/2020 - 08:44

I want became a lawyer o a police agent, I love this work

In reply to by bea_mara

Submitted by LumenENG on Sun, 04/05/2020 - 09:02

I would like to be an interpreter in the future. English is my passion for sure. Also, I like learning other languages as well, but I haven't started yet, huh. I'm looking forward to learning Japanese and I think this is my goal for life, but I don't how to even start with all problems around my life, stresses, exams etc. I hope I'll succeed in learning both of these languages. By the way, I want to learn Japanese because I want to watch Naruto in original 3 Anyway, why the video doesn't work for me? It just loading and loading and then stops...
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Submitted by JoEditor on Sun, 04/05/2020 - 19:02

Hi LumenENG,

I've checked the video and it's working fine. Could you please let us know if the other videos on our website work OK for you? Also, please could you try watching this video on a different computer or mobile device and let us know if you can watch it. 
Best wishes, Jo (LearnEnglish Teens Team) 

In reply to by LumenENG

Submitted by Ely on Fri, 04/03/2020 - 07:13

when i finish studying, i would like to be a teacher

Submitted by BttChiara on Thu, 04/02/2020 - 18:31

In the future, when I will finish studying, I would like to be a doctor, an actress or a magistrate.

Submitted by MatildePace on Thu, 04/02/2020 - 14:28

I still don't know what I would like to be when I grow up, but I like the idea of ​​being a lawyer. Because I like to defend people.

Submitted by Desy on Wed, 04/01/2020 - 15:18

When I finish studying I would like to become a doctor or a vet and open my clinic in Greece! I would like to cure who are sick.

Submitted by gattifederica on Tue, 03/31/2020 - 15:24

When I’ve finished studying I would like to be a policewoman because I would like to solve cases and try to understand who is the criminal. I hope to get married and have children and I would like to live in a big and beautiful house in the center of Milan or Rome.

Submitted by rinwimi on Tue, 01/21/2020 - 23:50

I would like to be a good software engineer.
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Submitted by Raysan on Wed, 09/18/2019 - 14:49

I want to be a great travel guide!
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Submitted by Youjiro on Fri, 02/01/2019 - 13:10

I'd like to be a police officer .
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Submitted by Genius_Girl on Fri, 06/29/2018 - 14:52

After studying, I would become a software engineer.

Submitted by GiovanaSarai on Mon, 02/12/2018 - 03:08

The practice is the most important for to learn.

Submitted by lalanieves30 on Fri, 01/26/2018 - 01:39

when I finish stady English I would like to travel aroun the world
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