The Little Verb at the Heart of the English Language

It has many forms, and they're all quite short: "be," "is," "am," "was," "were." But the importance of the verb "to be" is humongous. It might not seem that interesting. It's a straightforward workhorse, giving us the means to talk about what things are, or, simply, that they exist. It sometimes plays a minor supporting role as a helper to more exciting, meaning-packed verbs. It keeps itself so small and unobtrusive that we hardly notice that it's the big, beating heart of our language. As David Crystal notes in his book "The Story of Be," it "has developed a greater range of meanings and uses, and a wider range of variant forms, than any other English word."


Want to receive more content like this in your inbox?