Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English homepage


1 auxiliary verb
be1 S1 W1 past tense was, were, past participle been, present participle being first person singular am second person singular and plural are third person singular is
1XX used with a present participle to form the continuous (4) tenses of verbs:
Don't disturb me while I'm working.
Gemma was reading.
They've been asking a lot of questions.
That guy's always causing trouble.
We'll be starting in about an hour.
He isn't leaving, is he?
2XX used with past participles to form the passive:
Smoking is not permitted.
I was told about it yesterday.
The house is being painted.
She's been invited to a party.
The flames could be seen several miles away.
The police should have been informed about this.

be to do something

a) used to talk about arrangements for the future:
Audrey and Jimmy are to be married in June.
Two men are to appear in court on charges of armed robbery.
b) used to give an order or to tell someone about a rule:
You are to wait here in this room until I return.
All staff are to wear uniforms.
c) used to say or ask what someone should do or what should happen:
What am I to tell her?
He is not to be blamed.
d) used to ask how something can be done:
How are we to get out of the present mess?

be to be seen/found/heard etc

used to say that something can be seen, found, or heard somewhere:
A large range of species are to be seen in the aquarium.
We searched everywhere but the ring was nowhere to be found (=could not be found).
The only sound to be heard was the twittering of the birds above us.

was/were to do something

XX used when talking about a time in the past to say what happened later:
This discovery was to have a major effect on the treatment of heart disease.
a) used in conditional1 (2) sentences about an imagined situation
were somebody to do something/if somebody were to do something
Even if England were to win the next two matches, Germany would still be three points ahead.
Were we to offer you the job, would you take it?
b) used in conditional sentences to introduce an aim when you are saying what must be done in order to achieve it
if somebody/something is to do something
If we are to succeed in this enterprise, we shall need to plan everything very carefully.
7 old use used instead of 'have' to form the perfect3 tense of some verbs:
The hour is come.

Dictionary pictures of the day
Do you know what each of these is called?
What is the word for picture 1? What is the word for picture 2? What is the word for picture 3? What is the word for picture 4?
Click on any of the pictures above to find out what it is called.

Explore our topic dictionary