Be v. i. [imp. Was p. p. Been p. pr. & vb. n. Being.]
1. To exist actually, or in the world of fact; to have existence.
To be contents his natural desire. --Pope.
To be, or not to be: that is the question. --Shak.
2. To exist in a certain manner or relation, -- whether as a reality or as a product of thought; to exist as the subject of a certain predicate, that is, as having a certain attribute, or as belonging to a certain sort, or as identical with what is specified, -- a word or words for the predicate being annexed; as, to be happy; to be here; to be large, or strong; to be an animal; to be a hero; to be a nonentity; three and two are five; annihilation is the cessation of existence; that is the man.
3. To take place; to happen; as, the meeting was on Thursday.
4. To signify; to represent or symbolize; to answer to.
The field is the world. --Matt. xiii. 38.
The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. --Rev. i. 20.
Note: ☞ The verb to be (including the forms is, was, etc.) is used in forming the passive voice of other verbs; as, John has been struck by James. It is also used with the past participle of many intransitive verbs to express a state of the subject. But have is now more commonly used as the auxiliary, though expressing a different sense; as, “Ye have come too late -- but ye are come. ” “The minstrel boy to the war is gone.” The present and imperfect tenses form, with the infinitive, a particular future tense, which expresses necessity, duty, or purpose; as, government is to be supported; we are to pay our just debts; the deed is to be signed to-morrow.
Note: Have or had been, followed by to, implies movement. “I have been to Paris.” --Sydney Smith. “Have you been to Franchard ?” --R. L. Stevenson.
Note: ☞ Been, or ben, was anciently the plural of the indicative present. “Ye ben light of the world.” --Wyclif, Matt. v. 14. Afterwards be was used, as in our Bible: “They that be with us are more than they that be with them.” --2 Kings vi. 16. Ben was also the old infinitive: “To ben of such power.” --R. of Gloucester. Be is used as a form of the present subjunctive: “But if it be a question of words and names.” --Acts xviii. 15. But the indicative forms, is and are, with if, are more commonly used.
Be it so, a phrase of supposition, equivalent to suppose it to be so; or of permission, signifying let it be so. --Shak.
If so be, in case.
To be from, to have come from; as, from what place are you? I am from Chicago.
To let be, to omit, or leave untouched; to let alone. “Let be, therefore, my vengeance to dissuade.”
Syn: -- To be, Exist.
Usage: The verb to be, except in a few rare cases, like that of Shakespeare's “To be, or not to be”, is used simply as a copula, to connect a subject with its predicate; as, man is mortal; the soul is immortal. The verb to exist is never properly used as a mere copula, but points to things that stand forth, or have a substantive being; as, when the soul is freed from all corporeal alliance, then it truly exists. It is not, therefore, properly synonymous with to be when used as a copula, though occasionally made so by some writers for the sake of variety; as in the phrase “there exists [is] no reason for laying new taxes.” We may, indeed, say, “a friendship has long existed between them,” instead of saying, “there has long been a friendship between them;” but in this case, exist is not a mere copula. It is used in its appropriate sense to mark the friendship as having been long in existence.