The Verb To Be

May 21, 2021

n this lesson you’ll learn that to be is used as either a linking or helping verb. Since to be is an irregular verb, let’s do a quick review of its forms before diving into the material.

To Be: Present and Past Tenses
Person and NumberPresentPast
First person singular (I)amwas
First person plural (we)arewere
Second person singular or plural (you)arewere
Third person singular (hesheit)iswas
Third person plural (they)arewere
To Be: Present and Past Participles

To Be As a Linking Verb

To be is considered a linking verb when it’s used to describe traits, characteristics, emotions, and states of being. It connects the main noun (or subject) to a describing word, such as an adjective or another noun.

Traits and Characteristics

Daphne is very kind.
Is links the noun Daphne and the adjective kind.

My grandfather was a doctor.
Was links the noun grandfather and the describing noun doctor.


Lucy and Olivia are excited because their parents bought them a puppy for Christmas.
Are links Lucy and Olivia to the adjective excited.

States of Being

If the word that follows to be answers the questions when or where, it’s describing a state of being.

Wendell is here today.
Is links Wendell to a state of being (here).

The party was at 7 o’clock.
In this example, was links party to the time.

Hint: When you ask a question, to be comes at the beginning of the sentence and is separated from the describing word.

Is Wendell here today?

Hint: Normally, words and phrases that answer questions like when and where are considered adverbs, but when used with linking verbs, they act like adjectives. These words and phrases are often referred to as locatives or adverbial complements.