To be or not to be

The verb “be” expresses a state of existence.

It takes many forms and is the most inflected verb in English. In other words the verbs with the most number of different forms for different tenses, number and voice.

Essentially the verb be takes the following eight forms:

be, am, is, was, are, were, been, being

The infections of BE in three tenses and two numbers:


The Many Forms of Be


Apart from these, the “been” combines with helping verbs “has” and “had” and “will” to denote the perfect & progressive (continuous) aspect of the three tenses and also the future tense.

For example:

He has been in Germany for a long time.

He had been to England last year.

Next year, at the same time, I will have been doing my doctoral thesis in Languages of the Orient.

He will be fine tomorrow.

┬áBeing can be taken as the present progressive variant of “be” denoting an action in the present tense and that is continuous and progressing.

He is being nice to everyone.

Being also plays many other roles, such as a participle. That is a more advanced topic that we will deal with later.


Verbs – Inflection

Verbs are words that are used to denote action, an occurrence or a state of being. Primarily, they are known as action words and used to denote actions.

Some Examples:

Vignesh plays cricket.

Shrikanth eats ragi balls for breakfast.

Anil Kumble bowls well.

In the above examples, the words plays, eats & bowls are verbs. They describe the actions the subjects were doing.

Verbs change their form to denote tense, aspect, mood & voice. This change of form is called inflection.

For example:

He plays cricket – Present Tense

He played cricket – Past Tense

He will play cricket – Future Tense

In the above examples, the verb play changes form to indicate when the action took place. The verb can be inflected for all the three persons:

Verbs Inflected for Tenses

And for the two numbers in the Present Tense

Verbs Inflected for Number for the Present Tense

And for both tenses and number:

The Verb Play inflected for Person & Number


Or more elaborately:

The Verb Play inflected for Person & Number - Elaborate

Notice that the verbs change form only for the Third Person Singular. This is true for all Action Verbs.