To be Verb

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The Verb to be

To be is the most common verbs in the English language. The verb to be is an irregular verb, in fact the most irregular verb in the English language. To be changes depending on how to be agrees with the subject. It will change depending on whether it is used for the first, second, or third person. It will also change whether it is used for the past, present or future. It will also change whether it is used for singular nouns or plural nouns. The to be verb takes the forms of;

  • Am
  • Is
  • Be
  • Been
  • being
  • Are
  • Was
  • Were

The “to be” verb is used to create the continuous and the perfect continuous forms.

  • He is eating
  • They are studying
  • He was eating
  • They were studying
  • He will be eating
  • They will be studying
  • He has been eating
  • They have been studying
  • He had been eating
  • They had been studying
  • He will have been eating
  • They will have been studying

It is also used to create a passive voice;

  • The mat was sat on by the cat.


Present Tense Past Tense Perfect Form (past participle) Progressive Form (present participle)
I am was have been I am being
You/we/they are were Were been Are being
He/She/It is was Was been Is being
Singular Noun Is Was Was been Is being
Plural nouns Are Were Were been Are being


Knowing that the verbto be” changes in accordance to the subject and tense, it important to know the verb “to be” functions in various ways;

  • as a Main Verb
  • as an Auxiliary Verb
  • as a Linking Verb

To be as a main verb

As a main verb “to be” is often used in brief short sentences;

  • I am here
  • She is a nurse
  • They are in the shop

To be as an auxiliary verb

The verb “to have” is used as an auxiliary verb to help other verbs create the tenses or an auxiliary to a gerund or participle.

  • He is playing the piano
  • She will be arriving this afternoon
  • He was eating dinner

To be as a linking verb

“To be” can also acts as a linking verb. It joins the subject with an adjective or a phrasal noun that renames or defines the subject. As a linking verb, to be does not create an action.

  • The holiday to Thailand was fantastic
  • My wife is the head of nursing
  • The board members of the school were unfamiliar with modern teaching methods.



Perfect Continuous Form (Aspect)

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The perfect continuous indicates a continuous action that has been finished at some point in the past or that was initiated in the past and continues to happen. The action is usually of limited duration and has some current relevance:

The perfect continuous uses the verb have or has.

Present Perfect Continuous

The present perfect continuous is used with actions that began in the past and are still continuing.
It’s made with the present tense of have + been + present participle (root + ‑ing). You’ll most often see this verb tense used with the words for and since.

  • He has been going to a party every night (and went tonight)
  • They have been taking the bus home.
  • She has been arguing the point for over half an hour
  • I have been watching the Star Wars movies .
  • Has he been watching TV?

Past Perfect Continuous

The past perfect continuous is used when one activity in the past was happening before or after another activity had taken place.

The past perfect continuous is written by using the past tense of have + been + present participle. Look for the words for, since, and before.

  • He had been going to a party every night (but not tonight)
  • They had been taking the bus home. (but now goes by car)
  • She had been drinking since early morning.
  • I had been watching the Star Wars movies.

Future Perfect Continuous

The future perfect continuous tense is used much like the future perfect, but one of the actions is likely to continue beyond the other. It can also be used when one action will be continuing at a certain time in the future.

Create the future perfect continuous this way: will + have + been + present participle (root + ‑ing). Look for key words like in and by.

  • He will have been going to a party every night
  • By June, they will have been taking the bus home every day for a year.
  • By 10 pm, she will have been drinking for 12 hours
  • In September I have been working at the company for 10 years .

Perfect Form (Aspect)

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The perfect form is used when an action has occurred and has ended, except in the present tense where it may be still under consideration.

In the perfect form will use an auxiliary verb + the past form of the main verb (or the past participle sometimes known as Verb 3)

Present Perfect

The present perfect is used when an action began in the past yet is still relevant. It’s created by using the present tense of have/has + past form of the verb (known as (the past participle or verb 3).

  • I have been
  • You have stopped
  • You’ve left the building
  • He has arrived

Past Perfect

The past perfect tense is used to show that one action has finishes before a second action begins. When words like before and after are used this indicates that the past perfect tense may be in use. The past perfect is created by using had + past participle.

  • After he had eaten dinner, he went to sleep
  • He ate dinner before he had gone to sleep
  • The bride arrived but not until the groom had entered.

Future Perfect

The future perfect is used when an action will be finished before something else happens in the future. It’s made by using will + have + the past participle.

  • He will have found the watch by the time he goes home
  • She will have drunk all the wine before they arrive.
  • Will you have taken the bus before you arrive home?
  • The student will have studied by tomorrow

The Continuous Form (Aspect)

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The continuous form is used when an action has occurred and the action is continuing. Often known as the “ing” form

Present Continuous

When something has stated and is still happening at the same time the person is talking about it. We form it by using the present tense of be + present participle (the root word + ‑ing).

  • He is finding the work hard
  • Are you eating all the chocolate?
  • I is not taking the bus home.
  • She is arguing the point.

Past Continuous

The past continuous form is used to refer to temporal situations when something happened in the past continued to occur, but has now ceased. It’s made with the past tense of be + the present participle (the root word = ‑ing).

  • He was finding his car keys
  • Were you eating all the chocolate?
  • I was not taking the bus home.
  • She was arguing the point.

Future Continuous

The future continuous relates one action in the future to another specific action or time. It is made by using will + be + present participle (root word + ‑ing).

  • He will be going to the party tonight
  • Will you be eating dinner tonight?
  • They will not be taking the bus home.
  • She will be arguing the point.

Simple Form

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Simple Form
The simple form is used when something happens and then ceases to happen.

  • In the past an action took place but now does not.
  • In the future an action will happen but now is not happening.

The Simple Present
The simple present tense used when an action is happening at the present moment, or when it happens regularly or does not cease happening. The simple present tense is formed by using the infinitive (or root form) except in the to be forms of the verbs.

  • I am
  • You are
  • I write
  • They play

When talking about the 3rd person the simple present adds ‑s or ‑es to the end.

  • He plays
  • She studies

The Simple Past
The simple past refers to things that happened in the past, and are no longer doing it.

  • I was in Tokyo
  • You cooked dinner
  • He built a house

Regular verbs are changed by adding a V+ed or in the case of the verb ending in e d is added Ve +d, onto the root form.

  • I cook – I cooked
  • They listen – They listened
  • we love – we loved

Irregular verbs are a little more difficult, and you either have to learn them by heart, or check a dictionary.

  • I see – I saw
  • You build – You built
  • They do – They did

Some verbs don’t change from their present form.

  • He Put – He put
  • It Cut – It cut
  • It Cost – It cost

The Past Simple is often taught as Verb 2 in ESL classes. Students will spend hours memorising and chanting irregular verbs. In order to learn them.

Verb 1 Verb 2 Verb 3
Regular work worked worked
Regular study studied studied
Regular bake baked baked
Irregular sing sang sung
Irregular go went gone
Irregular build built built
Irregular cut cut cut

The Simple Future

The simple future is the tense we use when something will begin and end at later time. It’s created by putting will in front of the root word.

  • I will go to Tokyo
  • You will cook dinner tonight
  • He will build a house
  • Will you come tonight?

Infinitive Form

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The Infinitive Form is also known as the Root Form. It is when the verb is at it’s most basic form. It is the version of the verb which will appear in the dictionary. When a verb is preceded by the word to, it is said to be in its infinitive form (i.e., its most basic form). The infinitive form of a verb is usually preceded by to (e.g., to run, to dance, to think). However the infinitive form is not always preceded by to.

  • I need to sleep every day.
  • I must sleep every day.
    • (After certain verbs, the to is dropped.)


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Verbs are one of the most important types of words in the English language. Along with nouns, verbs can help you establish your first sentences. Often referred to as an action word or doing word, a verb also conveys

  • an action (bring, read, open, run, learn),
  • an occurrence (happen, become),
  • a feeling (seems, need, have, must),
  • or a state of being (be, exist, stand).

Verbs change depending on the time that the action takes place. It is called the verb tense. Although less common, they can also change depending on who is doing the action. The verbs can change depending on whether it is referring to the first person, the second person, or the third person. They can also change depending on whether the noun is singular, or plural, or non countable. Verbs can be categorised as

  • Regular
  • Irregular
  • Modal Verbs
  • Phrasal Verbs
  • Transitive
  • Intransitive

Dave Curby MBA. MPET. MoE.

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An entrepreneur and adventurer Dave Curby has had a very diverse and varied career that spans a number of industry sectors, countries and organisations. Mainly focussed on tourism, manufactoring and the education and training sectors, Dave has always had an interest in training and development, which was formalised when he commenced his career in the vocational education and training sectors in the early 1990s.

Not content to remain within the Australian education and training area, Dave’s entrepreneurial bent and passion for developing people took him to Vietnam where he established LEAD Education, a consultancy that amongst other things, established an Education Organisation in Hanoi Vietnam.

An expert VET professional Dave understand the Vocational Education and Training system having worked for TAFE, Private RTO’s, universities and Government throughout Australia and overseas. These roles have given him great background and understanding of education and training sectors, including VET and Higher Education.

As well as being a successful and experienced manager and VET Professional, Dave also brings extensive project management, financial management , organisational behaviour, leadership with particular expertise in compliance and regulation.