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Avertissement: cette page est destiné à un analyse grammatical du mot "be" 🔌


  • present tense: am (1s), is (3s), are (1p, 2s/p, 3p)
  • past tense: was (1s, 3s), were (1p, 2s/p, 3p)
  • present participle: being
  • past participle: been
  • present infinitive / imperative / subjunctive: be
  • past infinitive: have been
  • past subjunctive 1: were

1 be is the only verb in English that has a distinctive subjunctive form, and this is only in the past tense. Cf. "If I were a rich man... " 🎻

Major Uses

Most fundamentally be is a copula. (NP = noun phrase (syntagme nominal))

  • NP is NP: She is the boss.
  • NP is AdjP: The cat's paws are muddy.
  • NP is PP: Your keys are on the table.
  • NP is Particle: The sun is up. The network was down. The doctor may be in.
  • introduces present & past participles
  • present participle (-ing)
The present participle can be interpreted as a verb, a noun (usually called a gerund), or an adjective.
  • He was writing. (V)
  • This is (his) writing. (N)
  • It is interesting. (Adj)
Only the first is considered verbal.
The use of be + ing usually implies that the speaker is putting the listener in the middle of the action (in medias res): the speaker or writer is like a filmmaker recording an action. Alternately, it can indicate a series of occurrences.
be + -ing derives historically from be + on + -ing
  • past participle (-en / -ed)
The past participle is more like a photograph than a movie. Together with be, it forms the passive voice.
  • Lincoln and Kennedy were both assassinated.
  • Everything was frozen.
  • It was golden. (cf. adjectives like wooden, rotten)
The mediopassive can be formed with get.
  • My parents got (already) married in 1968.
  • My parents were (already) married in 1980..
  • My parents are (still) married in 2019.
  • introduces various modal structures with (to)
  • be unable to {verb} -- être capable de, pouvoir
  • be about to {verb} -- être sur le point de
  • be easy to {verb} -- être facile (de / à)
  • be difficult to {verb} -- être difficile (de / à)
  • be unlikely to {verb} -- être probable que
  • be supposed to {verb} -- être censé
  • be unwilling to {verb} -- vouloir bien