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(Unsectioned discussion)[edit]

This is the most common and most complicated verb in a great many languages. This article will need considerable expansion to provide a greater understanding of its many facets. Eclecticology

Not only that but it is also analyzed as a copula and some languages have a copula which is not a verb (Japanese), some languages use a word only in some tenses, some have a verb for exist which is not used in the common ways English be is used. — Hippietrail 21:57, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Personally, I'm not sure how one would even quantify "most complicated." Be is certainly the most syntactically irregular, but that's just a side-effect of its frequency. For my money, prepositions are at least as complicated (whatever that may mean), and even if we restrict our scope to verbs, go, have and will are pretty hairy semantically. For example, not all languages use going to as a future tense marker, Spanish distinguishes haber and tener even in auxilliary senses (haber for conjugations, tener que for have to/must), will as in want and will as a future tense marker will translate differently, the future tense marker is often not a separate verb, etc., etc.
The more important concern, though, is to represent be and other centrally important words as accurately as we can. I think perhaps what the original comment is driving at is that, unlike most words, the really central words and constructions of a language cannot be reasonably approximated by other words. -dmh 13:27, 1 Oct 2004 (UTC)

The auxilliary senses need work in general, and there should be some mention of passive voice. -dmh 18:57, 30 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Why is there two sections of translation? Eruantalon 10. September 2004

If anyone knows the difference between the Catalan: ser, estar and haver then we'll know ... is it copular versus intransitive 'to be' ??? — DavidL 22:05 6 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Unilang says that Catalan present compound tenses are formed with estar (to be). Haver (to have) is used in forming compound past tenses like in English and the other romance languages. So I think something is wrong in this article. — Hippietrail 03:56, 7 Oct 2004 (UTC)
Not only english and the other romance languages, but also germanic languages. 20:11, 25 April 2006 (UTC)


Wherefore wouldst thou place the term beest upon this accompanying page? I guess 'twould be far from necessary, but pretty fricking useful nevatheless. --ex-admin part-time sockpuppetting quasi-vandal Wonderfool 10:56, 4 May 2006 (UTC)


Is there any way to show the paradigms for archaic English conjugations? John Riemann Soong 23:19, 22 July 2006 (UTC)

That's a very good question which I'd thought a little about in the past and then some more when I read Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth recently. I would very much like to mark English verbs which have archaic forms apart from those which don't and I'd like the English inflection templates extended to cope with them. Now that the templates are smart it will be easy to add a preference to hide or show archaic forms as each user prefers. I highly recommend bringing this topic to the Beer parlour. — Hippietrail 23:27, 22 July 2006 (UTC)

Etymology after cleanup[edit]

I don’t like the etymology section after Pathoschild’s cleanup. It is now one etymology section, with three bullets instead of the three etymology sections each followed by their use, as it is explained in WT:ELE. What do others think? Enforce policy or change it? henne 12:17, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

I prefer to have three separate ===Etymology (1,2,3)=== sections, the way it was. That’s how we’ve been doing it and it’s a lot easier to make sense of the page. When the etymologies are condensed, it’s difficult to tell what is what. —Stephen 12:35, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

RFV discussion[edit]

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I'm not convinced that the last sense "Used to form the subjunctive" is a distinct sense. Every verb (except maybe modal verbs) has the same form in the subjunctive as its infinitive.

The original example for this sense was the incomprehensible (to my mind) "Be she more patient", which I take it is meant to mean "May she be more patient", which is indeed in the subjunctive. I have changed it to the much more understandable "I must insist that you be quiet."

Whichever of these sentences is used, all we have here is "to be" in the subjunctive, rather than being used as an auxiliary, which would apply to another verb to turn it into the subjunctive. There is no other verb in these examples, and I'm not aware of how you could use "be" in this way.

So I think this sense should go, otherwise we might as well have "Used to form the past" and then give an example using "was". (Incidentally, that usage is already covered by "be" used to form continuous tenses, which is a legitimate sense that should certainly stay.) — Paul G 15:02, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

Although the infinitive form of the verb be is used to form the subjunctive, you are correct that the subjunctive mood is not solely dominated by use of the single verb be. It's only that be looks so different when it inflects in the present, so it's use to form the subjunctive is more often noticed. This merits some sort of note, I think, though not a separate definition. BTW, your change of the example isn't entirely a good one. It changes the verb to a mandative construction that borders on the imperative, albeit a weak version. You would preserve the distinction better by avoiding the second person pronoun. --EncycloPetey 21:25, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

RFV failed, sense removed. However, subjunctive "be" does have some special properties — for example, "be it/they" = "whether it's/they're" — that might warrant a usage note. —RuakhTALK 15:20, 25 October 2007 (UTC)

Auxiliary usage (possibly colloquial)[edit]

Just a thought, I think it might be colloquial but I think it might be worth including its use as an auxiliary for forming the future tense (as conj. be + infitive). I certainly hear it every now and then. Example:

Instead of He will be king it would be He is to be king
Or instead of I will leave tomorrow it would be I am to leave tomorrow.

As I said, it might be colloquial, but that's still noteworthy. I've usually taken it to be less certain than "will" or "shall" however. I usually take it as "that's the current intention anyway". Any thoughts? - Estoy Aquí 00:20, 29 October 2007 (UTC)

I don't think it's colloquial at all; if anything, I think it's a bit formal. But yes, you're right, we don't seem to be covering that sense. —RuakhTALK 01:33, 29 October 2007 (UTC)
I really wasn't sure. I don't hear it often enough to be sure so I thought best not to risk making it sound more standard than I knew it was. Another I've thought of is obligation (again, it might be colloquial - even less sure this time ;) ). It might be the same as the former use, since I can only think of it being used in the imperative. E.g.:
You are to leave tomorrow!. (with imperative tone) meaning That's what you must do!
as oppossed to the slightly different meaning of (excluding the fact that the following is interrogative):
Are you to leave tomorrow? meaning Is that what you will do? not Do you have to leave tomorrow?
Not sure if it's the same, cause it is slightly different, but is usually distinguished only by tone of voice. - Estoy Aquí 00:20, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
I'm not actually familiar with the latter; maybe it's a British thing? For me, "be to __" always has some sense of obligation, even if it's a fairly weak one. It's like there's an implicit "supposed" (British "meant"), but without ambiguity between deontic (=how the world should be) and epistemic (=how the world is thought to be) senses. —RuakhTALK 00:57, 6 November 2007 (UTC)

derived terms[edit]

This page could do with some derived terms....however, it will be a crazy amount of work to try to find all the terms. --Jackofclubs 08:06, 27 October 2008 (UTC)

for consideration[edit]

First, I noticed that most of the examples do not use the actual word "be" and so could be by that "form of be" itself whether is or was instead of by be which is only minimally demonstrated by "be."
Secondly, I do not see the definition "to develop into" in the usage, "I want to be a fireman." Perhaps that should be added as a definition since the word is used that way.
Thirdly, a definition of "Has/have the qualification specified" includes many of the seperate definitions and should be mentioned (if not replace the others.)
Finally, to claim that "be" is subjunctive - though indeed in other dictionaries - seems in conflict with the usages "must be" and "cannot be"
Please consider and edit accordingly.
—This unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) at 15:37, 23 November 2008 (UTC).

Tea room discussion[edit]


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Obviously a complicated one....I am looking at senses 5, 7 and 9 of this verb. Is there really a meaningful difference between them, and, if so, can we find some better example sentences to make this more clear? Ƿidsiþ 10:42, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

5 and 9 seem to be the same, linking the subject to an adjectival description. But 7 might be different as it links the subject to a noun. Descriptions could be improved, possibly / probably. -- ALGRIF talk 14:00, 26 September 2008 (UTC)
They look different to me:
Sense 5 describes actual identity: "He is my older brother." That is, the referent and the predicate describe the same unique entity. (If "ignorance is bliss" is actually meant in this fashion, that would imply that there is no bliss apart from ignorance, and no ignorance which is not blissful.)
Sense 9 attributes properties (sky != deep blue): "My older brother is a tall man." "Ignorance is a blissful state." There are many tall men, but only one is my older brother; likewise, there may be many blissful states apart from ignorance.
Quite distinctly from these, sense 7 describes playing a role: "I'm being your mother now." Obviously the "president of France" example could equally be sense 9, so this should be replaced.
At any rate, this is messy stuff and IMO how one draws lines between senses of "to be" has more to do with philosophy than with actual word usage. Suggest a survey of other dictionaries as a starting point. -- Visviva 14:49, 26 September 2008 (UTC)


Doesn't it sound more reasonable that the sense be not with this word, but with the numbers?

   This building is three hundred years old.
   He looks twelve, but is actually thirteen, and will turn fourteen next week. 

The latter example shows he looks twelve denoting an age relation but does not use the word be. I can't think of a phrase which uses "...n years old" which wouldn't make sense with years old omitted. 06:10, 19 January 2010 (UTC)

As we have entries for many number words and symbols, we'd have to put something in each number or have an Appendix on the grammar of numbers in English. I favor the latter, but it is a hard one to write. DCDuring TALK 00:14, 5 February 2010 (UTC)
I agree, otherwise I wouldn't know where to put my translations. Also describing the age is very different in many languages - with or without verbs, the word for "year" may be different if talking about the age but in English there is usually "be" present, at least one thing to hold onto. --Anatoli 02:07, 5 February 2010 (UTC)

RFV (temperature)[edit]

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Rfv-sense. The defintion "Used to indicate temperature" seems to me not to be justified. It tags along with "Used to indicate age", "Used to indicate height", and "Used to indicate weather conditions", however, I don't think we can say, for instance, "It's 65 today" with the ease that we can say "it's warm today" or "he's 5'10" ". The example given, "It’s in the eighties outside, and next week it’s expected to be in the nineties!", also suggests that this definition isn't able to stand on its own. __meco 12:15, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

This seems like it might be converted to an "rfd-redundant sense". The last five senses all seem to be instances of using "be" with a bare number (not exactly a noun or adjective) to indicate a count or measurement. The senses above (5 and 6, I think) that give non-gloss definitions of "be" as link a subject to an adjective or to a noun phrase. Is what is needed here {{non-gloss definition|Used to link a subject to a count or measurement}}? DCDuring TALK 17:08, 13 July 2008 (UTC)
I don't think the three count/measurement definitions (age/height/weather) can be done away with that simply. They are idiomatic in a way that would be lost in the generalization which you suggest. You can say of a person that "she is 43" and everybody would know that the unit implied is years. If you did the same about an arbitrary tree or a car ("it is 15") you would most likely engender a confused stare. I don't think I fully grasp the implications and use of the non-gloss definition template, but I sense that it is perhaps part of the solution here. __meco 17:25, 13 July 2008 (UTC)
I think that the specific meanings depend on context and not on inherent meanings carried by "be". "She is 98" could refer to weight, body temperature, or age. The value of the number and the context of the discussion usually limit the number of senses possible. Nor is it limited to people. A tree or a car could "be 10". Certainly my pet could be. I doubt that you would have much trouble with many native speakers with "The surface of the Sun is only 10,000, whereas the interior is 15 million." The common element is the linkage. Arguably the linkage to measurement differs from the other linkages defined at "be". DCDuring TALK 18:13, 13 July 2008 (UTC)
Re: "I think that the specific meanings depend on context and not on inherent meanings carried by 'be'": Yes, I agree; however, I added those senses as a result of Wiktionary:Requests for deletion#he is n, where two editors (Rod and EP, though Rod sounded iffy) expressed a desire for them. The argument was basically that many other languages normally use other kinds of constructions for these meanings; not a great argument, since most of these senses apply to all or most English linking verbs (not just be), but there you have it. (Note: since three editors eventually expressed opposition to these senses — you, me, and msh210 — it might be worth RFD-ing them.) —RuakhTALK 18:25, 14 July 2008 (UTC)
We've had this conversation before, and IIRC we agreed that an appendix on English copulae, linked from the several words that function this way would go a long way towards solving the issue. --EncycloPetey 18:07, 14 July 2008 (UTC)
That seems like a good idea. It's a little hard on users to have five virtually redundant senses on top of ten others. The translation tables and such an appendix could carry the burden of precision while the entry itself could be a bit shorter. Maybe we can put off any RfDs until we have the appendix, which many of the more learned among us will team up to do in their copious free time. DCDuring TALK 19:38, 14 July 2008 (UTC)
google groups:"it's 65 today" gets two relevant hits, and google groups:"it's 65 outside" gets another six. You're right that it's not as common as age, height, etc.; I think the reason for that is that we tend to be less precise with weather than with personal statistics, and when we are being precise, we generally include units. —RuakhTALK 18:25, 14 July 2008 (UTC)
There doesn't seem to be a good conclusion here as far as changing the status quo, so I am leaving it and archiving the discussion. - TheDaveRoss 23:56, 1 February 2010 (UTC)

To be + infinitive (obligation)[edit]

1) Can we add as follows " Used with the infinitive of a verb to express intention, obligation, or future action " ? 2) What's the different between "to have to .... " and "to be to ...." when one wants to express an obligation.

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Translingual: The ISO 3166-2 country code for Belgium.

We've been deleting these, haven't we? DCDuring TALK 17:00, 2 January 2011 (UTC)

Not as far as I know. You might be thinking of language codes. --Yair rand (talk) 17:02, 2 January 2011 (UTC)
Delete because it should be capital letters, but keep BE. No reason to delete valid internationally recognised codes that are in common use.--Dmol 01:30, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
delete because of wrong caps. -- Prince Kassad 16:14, 3 January 2011 (UTC)
Delete. Mglovesfun (talk) 10:06, 4 January 2011 (UTC)

deleted -- Prince Kassad 22:24, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

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Rfd-redundant: Used to indicate temperature. Tagged but not listed, see the previous discussion at rfv (on the talk page) for details. Also, people in the chat think that sense 5 isn't really any distinct from sense 4, either, but I haven't tagged it so far. -- Prince Kassad 22:52, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

5 ("Used to indicate that the subject and object are the same: Ignorance is bliss") from 4 ("elliptical form of "be here", "go to and return from" or similar: The postman has been today, but my tickets have still not yet come; I have been to Spain many times.")? Really?​—msh210 (talk) 06:21, 27 January 2011 (UTC)
Whoops. What I meant is the senses: (transitive, copulative) Used to indicate that the subject and object are the same. and (transitive, copulative, mathematics) Used to indicate that the values on either side of an equation are the same., where I really fail to see the difference. -- Prince Kassad 00:23, 1 February 2011 (UTC)
Redundant to which? 18 ("Used to indicate weather, air quality, or the like: It is hot in Arizona, but it is not usually humid; Why is it so dark in here?")?​—msh210 (talk) 06:21, 27 January 2011 (UTC)
Quote from that RfV discussion, which I think is what you might be looking for: This seems like it might be converted to an "rfd-redundant sense". The last five senses all seem to be instances of using "be" with a bare number (not exactly a noun or adjective) to indicate a count or measurement. The senses above (5 and 6, I think) that give non-gloss definitions of "be" as link a subject to an adjective or to a noun phrase. Is what is needed here {{non-gloss definition|Used to link a subject to a count or measurement}}? DCDuring TALK 17:08, 13 July 2008 (UTC) -- Prince Kassad 09:17, 27 January 2011 (UTC)
I now tagged all relevant senses with {{rfd-redundant}} (or at least I think I got them all) -- Prince Kassad 22:37, 30 January 2011 (UTC)
Tagged are "14. Used to indicate age", "15. Used to indicate height", "16. Used to indicate time of day, day of the week, or date", and "19. Used to indicate temperature". Of those, I agree that 14, 15, and 19 can be combined into one, perhaps with the wording quoted above from DCDuring. As to 16: Its usexes are "It is almost eight" and "Today is the second, so I guess next Tuesday must be the tenth", of which the first uses the impersonal it and the second does not, so either (1) it should be split into two senses, one of which uses the impersonal it and the other of which should be subsumed into "9. Used to indicate that the subject has the qualities described by a noun or noun phrase: The sky is a deep blue today" or (2) we include impersonal-it senses with others so that "18. Used to indicate weather, air quality, or the like: It is hot in Arizona, but it is not usually humid" is redundant to "8. Used to connect a noun to an adjective that describes it: The sky is blue". Or is there difference I'm not seeing between the issue of splitting current-16 into theoretical-smaller-16 and subsumed-into-9 and that of splitting theoretical-larger-8 into current-8 and current-18?​—msh210 (talk) 16:12, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
This refers to the senses "Used to indicate X" where X is "age", "height", "time of day, day of week, or date", and "temperature". I agree: there is no end to these. (For example, it could indicate weight: "I am 75 kilograms".) So delete. Equinox 19:46, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

closed as deleted. -- Liliana 18:25, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

"To be" meaning "to act like"[edit]

This article omits the usage of the verb "to be" to indicate imitation. For instance, one might say "Rick Mercer used that accent because he was being Jean Chrétien." In this usage, the "am being/are being/etc." syntax is used for the present, "was being/were being" for the past, and the ongoing-tense conjugation is usually "I be, you be, he/she/it bes, we be, they be." ("Bes" is pronounced "bees.") This is never done in "proper English" contexts, but you can hear it in conversation all the time (mainly among under-30s) and occasionally on television where I live in southern Ontario. This isn't necessarily a serious omission, but I have pointed it out. 22:53, 27 June 2012 (UTC)

Tea room discussion 2[edit]


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Sense 4 (intransitive, without predicate) elliptical form of for "be here", "go to and return from" or similar.

  • The postman has been today, but my tickets have still not yet come.
  • I have been to Spain many times.

Surely this sense is only ever encountered in the form have/has been and some consider this to be an alternative perfect past form of go. Opinions? -- ALGRIF talk 15:28, 27 February 2009 (UTC)

Agree, it doesn't sound like the verb "to be". The expression "been and gone" might throw some light on this? Dbfirs 17:51, 27 February 2009 (UTC)

Tea room discussion 3[edit]

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be be a form of be!

In a sentence like "I try not to offend them: I be polite, I take off my shoes when entering their house, etc", what form of "be" am I using? The infinitive? A conjunctive/subjunctive form? I am aware that I could also say "I am polite", but isn't "I be polite" also grammatical, if literary? What form am I using in the sentence "I'll make you a deal: I be nice to your friend John, you be nice to my friend Jane"? Phol 07:54, 25 January 2012 (UTC)

You be nice is imperative. I be polite is, I believe, an antiquated form of the present indicative. —Stephen (Talk) 09:31, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
That use of be is part of AAVE. Some linguists who study the dialect assert that it is usually used to indicate a habitual or characteristic or, at least, continuing state or condition. Superficially, it seems to me to be used to cover more tenses, aspects, and moods than that. DCDuring TALK 15:04, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
It's not just AAVE. It's relatively rare, but I remember noticing it in a preview for Bratz: The Movie; one of the lead characters asks, "What do we do?" and another replies, "We be ourselves." (N.B. I don't know if this exchange occurred in the actual movie; previews are not always accurate.) I think everyone can agree that "We are ourselves" would not have worked (though I'm sure that many speakers will find that even "We be ourselves" will not work for them). As for what form — I think it's just a regular old non-third-person-singular present indicative form, but of a certain, defective sense of be. ("Defective" in that it doesn't have a complete conjugation; I'm fine with "We be ourselves", but I would not be fine with "So what did you do?" ?"I be'd myself!". Some speakers, however, do accept "be's" and "be'd", so for them I guess the conjugation isn't defective.) CGEL, by the way, refers to this sense of be as "lexical be", giving the example of "Why don't you be more tolerant?"[1]RuakhTALK 15:23, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
This work has be's as an inflected form sometimes occurring in the corpus used. OTOH, be'd seems much rarer. DCDuring TALK 17:24, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
Sorry, I think we need to backtrack a bit. Above, I wrote, "It's not just AAVE"; but really what I should have written was, "it's not AAVE at all". I disagree with your statement above, "That use of be is part of AAVE." There is a use of "be" that is part of AAVE, but Phol is (I believe) asking about a different use. My comment was about the use that (s)he is asking about. So the book that you link to, with its AAVE quotations that use be's, is not relevant to my comment. —RuakhTALK 18:23, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
See under Observations. —Stephen (Talk) 18:32, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
All these non-subjunctive senses might well be archaisms reflecting the Old English dual conjugation of the copula, see beon-wesan. In fact, ic bēo(m), þū bist, hē/hēo/it biþ, wē/gē/hī bēoþ, which would then be continued more or less directly in I be, thou beest, he/she/it be, we/ye/they be (which is also found as the general paradigm dialectally), do seem to have had a habitual sense originally. Note that AAVE can very well continue dialectal/archaic features conveyed through Southern American English dialects. Fascinating stuff. --Florian Blaschke 19:43, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
@Stephen G. Brown: Yeah, that may be what Phol has in mind; I wouldn't have thought so, except that (s)he describes it as "literary", which is a fair description of that use, and not a fair description of the use that I mentioned. —RuakhTALK 19:44, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
Thinking over it again, the usage that Phol describes (and you, Ruakh, too, in your movie example) may rather be something else than an archaism – just an infinitive with a pronoun prepended: "What do we do?" – "We? Be ourselves." or "We, be ourselves." Though this might eventually have been supported by the archaic or (also) AAVE usage. --Florian Blaschke 19:59, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
Re "What do we do? ―We be ourselves", is that because there's an elided "do" in there ("We [do] be ourselves"), copied over from the question? Does the answer to that question make any difference?​—msh210 (talk) 22:01, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
This source characterizes non-imperative "do be" as part of Irish English and not part of Standard English, the latter being in accord with my ear.
There are a few things you can't quite say without it. "So what do we do? Do we be ourselves?" Definitely cannot use "are" here. Equinox 20:25, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
I would be nice to know more about the context of the usages Phol has offered for discussion. DCDuring TALK 22:27, 25 January 2012 (UTC)
sorry, i've just been following this discussion rather interestedly. Perhaps this is actually a (rare) example of a first-person plural imperative being attested in English? Piddle 05:14, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
CGEL's "lexical be" seems like a simple infinitive to me, at least in the example given. Phol 06:52, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
No, sorry, you misunderstand me. CGEL's "lexical be" is not a form, but a sense. Like, the word "child" has one sense where it means "young human" (as in "hundreds of children attend the school") and one sense where it means "a human's offspring" (as in "all of her children are in their thirties"). In the example sentence, "Why don't you be more tolerant?", the form is the infinitive, but the sense is the so-called "lexical be". —RuakhTALK 14:47, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
Ah, gotcha. Phol 21:12, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
So would a good definition be "To exist or behave in the manner specified" with a usage note about how it differs from the usual be?​—msh210 (talk) 22:01, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
Ah, now I gotcha (I hope); it is easier to handle this as a sense (with its own conjugated forms), rather than as a conjugated form. [[Hang]] might be a model for how to explain the differing conjugations of the different senses. Phol 00:30, 27 January 2012 (UTC)
I can't be sure it's the same form, because I'm not sure what the form is, but I think "what do we do? we be ourselves" is great example of the form I'm thinking of. An alternate indicative rather than a subjunctive seems like a good explanation. In fact, I would guess that Ruakh's defective conjugation of "be" is Stephen's archaic conjugation, which just lost a few forms as it made its way into the modern era. (It's not missing past tense forms for me; I'd say "what did I do? I was myself"; but I am missing a third person singular indicative.) The difference between the conjugations for me is that "I be" connotes doing, whereas "I am" is static. "I am polite to them" means I am unremarkably showing them the politeness I generally show everyone (and note this as I list everything that should lead to them not being offended), whereas "I be polite to them" emphasizes that I show them politeness (even when they test me with rudeness, or even when my politeness is not sincere). Hence I wrote "I be" in an e-mail, but then I questioned the grammar. (And FWIW I would say "We’re in Japan! What do we do? We be ourselves.") Re: my second, hypothetical example: I suppose whether "I'll make you a deal: I be nice to John, you be nice to Jane" is subjunctive or imperative depends on whether it's truly an offer or a demand. Phol 06:52, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
Re: "'I be' connotes doing, whereas 'I am' is static": Yes, exactly: "I be polite" is a lexical be, whereas "I am polite" is a regular copula be. —RuakhTALK 14:47, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
So, how's this for a usage note? (Maybe we should have a giant collapsible table of forms like rechercher#Conjugation.) Phol 21:12, 26 January 2012 (UTC)
In the case of I'll make you a deal: I be nice to your friend John, you be nice to my friend Jane? ... That's a subjunctive form. Fee, fie, fo, fum / I smell the blood of an Englishman; / Be he alive or be he dead, / I'll grind his bones to make my bread. (Jack and the Beanstalk) --AnWulf ... Ferþu Hal! 15:29, 17 February 2012 (UTC)
This is correct. --Jtle515 (talk) 23:20, 16 April 2012 (UTC)

"Be" as present tense[edit]

Relevant previous discussion: Special:PermanentLink/24548883#be be a form of be!

Isn't "be" sometimes used as the present tense? As in "Sometimes I just be quiet and let her talk". Certainly the forms starting with "b" were often used for the present tense in Old English, and there's the expression "Here be dragons", though I'm not sure whether that is attested (see the Wikipedia article on it). Eric Kvaalen (talk) 06:31, 21 January 2013 (UTC)

Ruakh added the above note about a relevant previous discussion in the "Tea room", and that discussion answers my question very well -- namely, the form "be" is used in a special way in Modern English (called "lexical be"), and it was also used as a normal indicative in former times, with examples in Shakespeare and the King James Bible. I'm gonna add something about this to the article. There is one thing at the end of that discussion I would disagree with: Someone says that in the example "I'll make you a deal: I be nice to your friend John, you be nice to my friend Jane" the form "be" is a subjunctive. I don't agree, because if we use another verb and third person, we would add "s": I'll make you a deal: I get $100 and your candidate gets my vote. Eric Kvaalen (talk) 06:23, 22 January 2013 (UTC)
Isn't this will be, in which "will" is omitted because "be" is already good enough: Sometimes I'll just be quiet and let her talk. And: I'll be nice to your friend and you'll be nice to your friend. I'm not sure, but that's how I've always thought of it. How would you negate these sentences? Would you say: Sometimes I be not quiet and let her talk. Or: Sometimes I don't be quiet and let her talk. Or: Sometimes I won't be quiet and let her talk. For me it's the latter, but I don't know... —This comment was unsigned.
Definitely Sometimes I don't be quiet and let her talk. —RuakhTALK 15:29, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
be is definitely still used instead of am in rural parts of the west country (UK):- "I be goin' down the pub". SemperBlotto (talk) 15:36, 19 March 2014 (UTC)
This is definitely a colloquial present tense of the verb to be with a more active meaning than a simple copula. It is not just a dropped "will". It is more commonly used in the present progressive "I'm being nice". It is sometimes avoided in the simple present as it sounds a bit awkward, but sometimes it is used. @SemperBlotto, I think that is a different usage than the one here. --WikiTiki89 15:38, 19 March 2014 (UTC)

Whether it be[edit]

Should there be a mention of phrases like "whether it be"? AmericanLeMans (talk) 03:06, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

Be as indicative[edit]

I'm not doubting the claim that be was or has been used as an indicative, but is the following sentence really an example of this?? I think it be thine indeed, for thou liest in it. It seems to be subjunctive in a clause dependent on "think". Well, at least it's a doubtful case and hence not a good example. I think it should be replaced.