The English verb to be has the following forms:
- present and perfect infinitive (to be, to have been)
- present and past participle (being, been)
- simple and continuous forms (in tenses)
The continuous form, however, is only used in the passive forms of the present continuous and past continuous, and in some other cases as you can see below.
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Forms of the verb to be
There are twelve tenses in English, but the verb to be can be used only in eight tenses because it has only the present continuous and past continuous forms.
I am in the garden.
He/she/it is in the garden.
You/we/they are in the garden.
Read more: Present simple forms of to be
We use the verb to be in the present continuous form in the passive voice and with some adjectives to describe someone's behaviour.
I am being cured.
He/she/it is being cured.
You/we/they are being cured.
I am being silly.
He/she/it is being silly.
You/we/they are being silly.
Compare: You are silly. (= You are always silly.) You are being silly. (= You are acting in this way just now.)
I/he/she/it was too late.
You/we/they were too late.
Read more: Past simple forms of to be
We use the verb to be in the past continuous forms similarly to the present continuous.
I/he/she/it was being laughed at.
You/we/they were being laughed at.
I/he/she/it was being nasty.
You/we/they were being nasty.
All persons: will be.
I will be at home.
I/you/we/they have been in Spain since last Sunday.
He/she/it has been here for ages.
All persons: had been.
He had been there before I arrived.
All persons: will have been.
It will have been at your home by the end of this week.
Present infinitive (to be)
The present infinitive has two forms: with to and without to.
I want to be a footballer.
To be in the forest early in the morning is my greatest pleasure.
You must be Sarah's brother.
I'd rather be there on time.
I told him not to be late for the meeting.
You'd better not be so noisy.
Perfect infinitive (to have been)
The perfect infinitive has also two forms: with to and without to. It can refer to the past or to the future.
Josh claims to have been at school yesterday.
To have been the vice president of such a company was a big success.
It can't have been true.
You shouldn't have been rude to your teacher.
Present participle (being)
The present participle of the verb to be is used to make the passive forms of the present continuous and past continuous tense.
The leaves are being moved away from the streets these days.
The forest was beeing cut down when I was there last time.
With some adjectives it can have special meanings.
Ben, you are being foolish. Stop it.
She is being polite because she wants something from you.
Past participle (been)
The past participle helps to form some continuous tenses and also perfect tenses.
I have been trying to find my keys since the morning.
We had been staying on the beech till the sun set.
Terry will have been training for a year before the race starts.