To be, or not to be

The verb to be shows existence or nonexistence. Shakespeare’s Hamlet poses the question, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” as an existential presence. It shows that¬†something takes place, happens, or will occur in the future, as in The show¬†is about to start or Let it be.

The verb to be joins the subject of the sentence with either an adjective or a noun to describe or identify the subject. When it is connected with an adjective, it’s called the predicate adjective, as in Bill is small. When connected with a noun, it’s called the subject complement or predicate noun or predicate nominative, as in Sarah is CEO.

In writing, the verb to be is overused and often clutters writing, forcing editors to take their red pens out and inflicting a change. But, it’s for the best because readers don’t want to read about the be’s more than they have to hear and speak them in daily practice. (Unless you’re a children book author writing for a before-school age group.)

Next time, listen to the way you talk, or other people, relying on the be’s:

am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been

Also, listen for be’s you see in contractions:

there’s, here’s, it’s, he’s, she’s, and others