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Thread: Verb to be

  1. #1
    garp4798 is offline Newbie
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    Default Verb to be

    Hi,
    I am told that the verb (To be), is the most commonest verb, but I must be missing something as I just can't see why.
    I just for some reason don't understand it.
    I look on line for some explanations, and it says a lot of things it can be , but I don't understand why.
    Can you put me straight with a few basic principals.

    Thank you

  2. #2
    Soup's Avatar
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    Default Re: Verb to be

    "Be is the most common verb in the English language. It can be used as an auxiliary and a main verb. It is used a lot in its other forms." To find out more, click here http://www.learnenglish.de/grammar/verbtobe.html

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    garp4798 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Verb to be

    Thanks. I will have a study of the link you gave me.
    I am have a hard job understanding how "be" get to become: am,are,is,was and were.
    Hopefully the penny will drop and it will sink in.

    Thanks.

  4. #4
    naomimalan is offline Member
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    Default Re: Verb to be

    Quote Originally Posted by garp4798 View Post
    Thanks. I will have a study of the link you gave me.
    I am have a hard job understanding how "be" get to become: am,are,is,was and were.
    Hopefully the penny will drop and it will sink in.

    Thanks.
    A fellow linguist once told me that the most frequently used verbs in a language (be and have in languages where these verbs exist) retain their irregularities or contain irregularities even when they no longer have/do not have a system of irregular verbs.

    Irregular forms for these two verbs are not peculiar to English.

    Take French for example, where you conjugate the verb to be in the present as follows:
    Je suis: I am
    Tu es : you are
    Il/elle est: he/she/it is
    nous sommes : we are
    vous êtes: you are
    ils/elles sont: they are

    Six different forms for only three in English!

    And the verb to have in French:
    J’ai: I have
    Tu as: you have
    Il/elle a: He/she has
    nous avons: we have
    vous avez: you have
    Ils/elles ont: they have

    Six different forms for only two in English!

    If you take Afrikaans, which I think is the world’s youngest language, you now only have irregularities with these two verbs (be and have)*:

    The present tense form is “is” throughout but the past form is “was” and the past participle form is “gewees”.

    Similarly, with the verb have in Afrikaans, the present tense form is “het” but the past form is “het gehad”.

    Afrikaans, as you know, is derived from Dutch, which, I think, has a whole system of irregular verbs. But these two verbs are the only irregular ones retained*.

    * A quarter of a century ago, the past form of the verb to know in Afrikaans, weet, could sometimes have an irregular form, wis, but I’m not sure it still exists.

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    Default Re: Verb to be

    Did you know that in Hindi 'Kal' (pronounced Kul) means yesterday or tomorrow depending on context.

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    abaka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Verb to be

    Quote Originally Posted by garp4798 View Post
    Thanks. I will have a study of the link you gave me.
    I am have a hard job understanding how "be" get to become: am,are,is,was and were.
    Hopefully the penny will drop and it will sink in.

    Thanks.
    The verb "be" is irregular in practically all Indo-European languages, and is generally closer in form to what it was 5000 years ago than any other word. Its forms in English, according to the OED, combine three Indo-European roots.

    "es" -- to exist --> am, is, are
    "beu" -- to become --> be, being, been
    "wes" -- to remain --> was, were

    An interesting cognate is "future", which comes from the Latin "fu--" root, from "beu".

    Indo-European(reconstructed);Latin;Old English; Mod. E.
    I es-mi ; sum; eom; am
    [thou] es-si; es; eart; [art]
    he es-ti; est; is; is
    we es-mos; sumus; earun; are
    you es-te; estis; earun; are
    they 's-nti; sunt; earun; are

    At some prehistoric point, the Germanic languages introduced a single form in the plural, apparently from the third person, "they". And an r/s exchange took place in some forms, but that's common in many languages. (Note also that the Indo-European reconstructions I'm quoting are probably completely out of date as far as modern linguistics are concerned.)

    The -m in "am" is the last relic in English of an Indo-European first person singular marker.

    Fascinating, isn't it? I think it was this verb that spurred my fascination with language, oh, thirty years ago.


    PS. Bhaisahab, isn't Kali the goddess of death? Do you know if Kali is somehow related to Kal?
    Last edited by abaka; 29-Jan-2009 at 06:12.

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    bhaisahab's Avatar
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    Default Re: Verb to be

    Do you know if Kali is somehow related to Kal?

    I don't think so 'Kali' has a long vowel sound 'kaali' whereas 'kal' has a short 'u' sound as in 'cup'. All these spellings are attempts to romanize the Devangri alphabet phonetically.

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