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I just read on a forum

Ur BF be cray-cray.

I understand everything in this sentence except why it says be instead of is.

I've seen that in sentences like

He be tripping.

What is that? That's not a tense, is it? I think it's just tense.

I've seen "bitches be crazy", too.

Is it humor, cause it sounds funny.

1 Answer 1

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The conjugation of the verb be varies between different varieties of English. The usage that you are asking about does not originate in standard English.

In what linguists have called "African-American Vernacular English" (abbreviated "AAVE"), the form be is used to express a habitual state of being. That means in this variety, the use of "be" instead of "is" in "Ur BF be cray-cray" or "He be tripping" would tell you that the sentence does not just describe something going on right this instant, but something that is generally true.

AAVE has had a large influence on slang spoken more broadly, so this use of be, as well as other constructions derived from AAVE, can be heard or seen from people who don't natively speak AAVE. Aside from humor, as you guessed, there are other complicated social reasons for the use of AAVE-derived vocabulary and grammar by other English speakers (e.g. there are associations between this variety of English and some genres of music, and cultural connotations of "coolness" in some contexts), and it can be a socially sensitive topic since it is connected to the subject of race and social class in America. When used outside of the context of AAVE, the construction with "be" might not retain the habitual sense that it has in this variety of English.

If you are a student learning English, you would not usually be expected to know how and when to use this kind of grammar, since be is not used this way in standard English. It will be useful to be able to recognize it when you encounter it.

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