Tenses and "to be" Verbs

by Shubhasis Chatkhandi
(Kolkata; India)

Dear Ola, I have two questions and would be sincerely thankful if answered.

1. We know that Auxiliary verbs ('be', 'have' and 'do') can also act as Main verbs in a sentence.

So, what will be the Present Continuous, Present Perfect and Present Perfect Continuous forms of the following sentence :

He is sick.

2. Why are the verbs 'am', 'is', 'are', 'was' and 'were' called 'be' verbs? Does it mean that the sentence "I am unwell" can be written as "I am to be unwell"?

With warm regards

Comments for Tenses and "to be" Verbs

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Feb 19, 2011
by: Ola Zur

Hi Shubhasis,

Regarding your first question:

Present Continuous:
He is being sick.

Present Perfect:
He has been sick.

Present Perfect Continuous:
He has been being sick. (But it's hard to believe someone would actually bother saying all that ;)

Regarding your second question:

The verb "be" is a special verb. It has many different forms:
Am, is, are, was, were, be, been, being.

Since these are all different form of the same verb, they are all called "the verb be".

However, the meaning of "I am unwell" is different than "I am to be unwell".

Here is the difference:
"I am unwell" means that the speaker is sick, now, at the present.
"I am to be unwell" means that the speaker thinks he is supposed to become sick in the future.

You see, each different form of the verb BE has a different meaning. It's just like there is a difference between "to take", "took", "will take", "is taking" and "be taken".

Click here for more data on The Verb to Be: Forms, Examples and Grammar Exercises.

Ola Zur is the editor of www.really-learn-english.com, an illustrated guide to English.

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