be

1 of 5

verb

past tense first- and third-person singular was ˈwəz How to pronounce be (audio)
ˈwäz
; past tense second-person singular were ˈwər How to pronounce be (audio) ; past tense plural were; past subjunctive were; past participle been ˈbin How to pronounce be (audio) ˈben How to pronounce be (audio)
chiefly British
ˈbēn How to pronounce be (audio)
; present participle being ˈbē(-i)ŋ How to pronounce be (audio) ; present tense first-person singular am
əm,
ˈam How to pronounce be (audio)
; present tense second-person singular are ˈär How to pronounce be (audio)
ər
; present tense third-person singular is ˈiz How to pronounce be (audio)
əz
; present tense plural are; present subjunctive be

intransitive verb

1
a
: to equal in meaning : have the same connotation as : symbolize
January is the first month
let x be 10
b
: to have identity with : to constitute the same idea or object as
The first person I met was my brother.
c
: to constitute the same class as
These three books are the authoritative works on the president's life.
d
: to have a specified qualification or characterization
The leaves are green.
e
: to belong to the class of
the fish is a trout
Keeping this room clean is your responsibility.
used regularly in senses 1a through 1e as the copula of simple predication
2
a
: to have an objective existence : have reality or actuality : live
I think, therefore I am.
b
: to have, maintain, or occupy a place, situation, or position
the book is on the table
c
: to remain unmolested, undisturbed, or uninterrupted
used only in infinitive form
Let him be.
d
: to take place : occur
The concert was last night.
e
: to come or go
has already been and gone
has never been to the circus
f
archaic : belong, befall
… to thine and Albany's issue be this perpetual.William Shakespeare

auxiliary verb

1
used with the past participle of transitive verbs as a passive-voice auxiliary
The money was found.
The house is being built.
2
used as the auxiliary of the present participle in progressive tenses expressing continuous action
He is reading.
I have been sleeping.
3
used with the past participle of some intransitive verbs as an auxiliary forming archaic perfect tenses
… Christ is risen from the dead …1 Corinthians 15:20 (Douay Version)
4
used with to + infinitive to express futurity, arrangement in advance, or obligation
I am to interview him today.
She was to become famous.
5
used in the uninflected form be in African American English and to varying degrees in some other varieties of English to indicate that an action or state is habitual or frequent
I be singing in the shower.
… they be bothering you while you try and do your work. …unidentified African American English speaker, quoted in The Corpus of Regional African American Language

Note: In linguistics, this use of be is referred to as aspectual be, habitual be, or invariant be.

compare BEEN

Be

2 of 5

symbol

beryllium

3 of 5

abbreviation (1)

Baumé

BE

4 of 5

abbreviation (2)

1
bachelor of education
2
bachelor of engineering
3
bill of exchange
4
5

be-

5 of 5

prefix

1
: on : around : over
besmear
2
: to a great or greater degree : thoroughly
befuddle
3
: excessively : ostentatiously
in intensive verbs formed from simple verbs
bedeck
and in adjectives based on adjectives ending in -ed
beribboned
4
: about : to : at : upon : against : across
bestride
5
: make : cause to be : treat as
belittle
befriend
6
: call or dub especially excessively
bedoctor
7
: affect, afflict, treat, provide, or cover with especially excessively
bedevil
befog

Examples of be in a Sentence

Verb stories that begin with the familiar line “once upon a time there was a beautiful maiden” we'll be there waiting for you
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
There were flaws — including sluggish cellular internet speeds. Brian X. Chen, New York Times, 8 Feb. 2024 Also there were still a lot of bodily changes from pregnancy, hormones, that kind of stuff. Gillian Telling, Peoplemag, 8 Feb. 2024 Much of Palantir’s work there is conducted in stylish co-working spaces by a team of fewer than a dozen local employees who work directly with Ukrainian officials. TIME, 8 Feb. 2024 There is little talk of grand diplomatic bargains in Gaza, where Palestinians yearn for an end to fighting that has upended every aspect of their lives. Matthew Lee, arkansasonline.com, 8 Feb. 2024 Traditionally Democratic voters who didn’t vote last week can participate, and there are potentially a lot of them. Henry Olsen, National Review, 8 Feb. 2024 If there were ever a year to subscribe to the Dave’s Picks series, 2024 is the year. Eric Renner Brown, Billboard, 8 Feb. 2024 On the other hand, there are opportunities opening that have the possibility of a bright future. Erik Kirschbaum, Variety, 8 Feb. 2024 There is also a lot more storage room, according to Motor1.com. Bryan Hood, Robb Report, 8 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'be.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English, from Old English bēon; akin to Old High German bim am, Latin fui I have been, futurus about to be, fieri to become, be done, Greek phynai to be born, be by nature, phyein to produce

Prefix

Middle English, from Old English bi-, be-; akin to Old English by, near — more at by

First Known Use

Verb

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of be was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near be

Cite this Entry

“Be.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/be. Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

be

1 of 2 verb
past 1st & 3rd singular was (ˈ)wəz How to pronounce be (audio)
ˈwäz
; 2nd singular were (ˈ)wər How to pronounce be (audio) ; plural were; past subjunctive were; past participle been (ˈ)bin How to pronounce be (audio)
 chiefly British  (ˈ)bēn
; present participle being ˈbē-iŋ How to pronounce be (audio) ; present 1st singular am əm How to pronounce be (audio)
(ˈ)am
; 2nd singular are ər How to pronounce be (audio)
(ˈ)är
; 3rd singular is (ˈ)iz How to pronounce be (audio)
əz
; plural are; present subjunctive be
1
a
: to have the same meaning as : serve as a sign for
January is the first month
let x be 10
b
: to have identity with
the first person I met was my brother
she is my mother
c
: to have the quality or character of
the leaves are green
d
: to belong to the class of
the fish is a trout
apes are mammals
2
a
: exist sense 1, live
I think, therefore I am
there once was a knight
b
: to occupy a place, situation, or position
the book is on the table
I was sick
c
: to remain undisturbed or uninterrupted
used only in infinitive form
let it be
d
: to take place : occur
the concert was last night
3
used with the past participle of transitive verbs to form the passive auxiliary
the money was found
the house is being built
4
used with the present participle to express continuous action
they are studying
I have been sleeping
5
used with the infinitive with to to express the future or something one must do
she was to become famous
I am to leave today

be-

2 of 2 prefix
1
: on : around : over
besmear
2
: provide with or cover with : dress up with
bejewel
bewhiskered
3
: about : to : upon
bemoan
4
: make : cause to be
belittle
befriend
Etymology

Prefix

Old English be-, bi- "on, over"

Medical Definition

1 of 3 abbreviation
Baumé

Be

2 of 3 symbol
beryllium

BE

3 of 3 abbreviation
1
barium enema
2
below elbow
3
board-eligible

More from Merriam-Webster on be

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