Many English exams have fill-in-the-blanks questions. These blanks need to be filled with the forms of the verb "to be". What is meant by the "to be" verb form. Does it mean only the word - "to be". How come is/are/was/were comes into the picture when you say "to be". Does something more come to mind when we say "to be" form?

  • "To be verb form" -> do you mean the infinitive? Could you please give an example?
    – Stephie
    Mar 13, 2015 at 6:05

3 Answers 3


I see that you are from Bangalore, India.

So, in Hindi, 'to be' verb means "होना". And that's how, 'is/are/was/were' comes into the picture.

The boys is moving toward the school bus -incorrect

Boys "का मूव होना" is correct but then 'to be' verb should be 'are'.

The boys are moving...

The subject-verb is important in this as singular goes with singular verb and plural with plural.

This is the shortest way I could make you understand with the help of Hindi. Further reading is strongly recommended. This will be helpful.

  • 2
    This answer could be greatly improved by not relying on or using the OP's native language. Questions and answers on this site are to be in English so that they can be read and understood by all users, and the exigency of this is that questions are meant to form a library for consultation by future users. This answer cannot be understood unless one speaks Hindi. Nov 5, 2016 at 19:31
  • 3
    Well it seems that the first expression in Hindi is the translation of to be, that's easy enough to understand, and I don't speak Hindi. The second Hindi word seems to be a translation of boys, note the inverted commas. Then the OP clearly explains that the singular verb does not agree with a plural subject, and supplies the correct answer. It's an easy enough explanation which any English learner will easily grasp.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 6, 2016 at 18:50

The verb "to be" has a complex history.

There were four different verbs in Old English: 1. "Beon" meaning to exist 2. "eom" meaning to remain, (mostly used in the present tense) and 3. "wesan" (which tended to be used in the past tense) and meant dwell 4. "earun" (A northern dialect word meaning to exist) There was also a prefix "es-" that also could be used to indicate that something existed.

These four expressions have become mixed and tangled into what we now think of as being a single irregular verb, with the following forms:

infinitive            to be
present participle    being
past participle       been

                      present              past     
first person present  I am                 I was
second person present you are              you were 
third person present  it is                it was
            plural    we/you/they are      we/you/they were

It is a mess: five different words mixed into one. But you have to choose the correct form, based on the grammar of the sentence. When asked to pick a form of "to be" it is asking for one of these


to be is the infinitive form of this verb, all other forms you mentioned they are just grammatical forms of this verb. For example am/is/are the present forms. You cannot say I to be...: you say "I am...". You ask about the meaning, there are many meaning because this verb can be the auxiliary, the part of phrases etc. This is very wide-spread word, thus, it looks for you that it is very often appear in some exam tasks.

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