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be (v.)

古英语 beonbeombion "be,existence,come to be,become,happen,"来自于原日耳曼语 *biju- "I am,I will be"。这个"b根"来自于PIE根 *bheue- "存在、存在、生长",除了英语中的单词外,它还产生了德语现在的第一人称和第二人称单数( binbist ,来自于古高德语 bim "我是", bist "你是"),拉丁语完形时态 esse ( fui "我是"等),古教会斯拉夫语 byti "是",希腊语 phu- "成为",古爱尔兰语 bi'u "我是",立陶宛语 būti "成为",俄语 byt' "成为"等。

现代动词 to be 的整体代表了两个曾经不同的动词的合并,即以 be 为代表的"b根"和 am/was 动词的合并,而 动词本身就是一个合并体。罗杰-拉斯(《古英语》)把这个动词描述为"语义上相关的范式片段的集合",而周利则称其为"来自不同古英语方言[ect]s的意外集合体"。它是现代英语中最不规则的动词,也是最常见的动词。在所有的日耳曼语言中都是集合体,在现代英语中它有八种不同的形式。

BE(不定式、从句、命令式);AM(现在的第一人称单数);ARE(现在的第二人称单数和所有复数);IS(现在的第三人称单数);WAS(过去的第一人称和第三人称单数);WERE(过去的第二人称单数,所有复数;从句);BEING(进位分词和现在分词;动词);BEEN(完全分词)。

古英语中的范式是: eom, beo (现在第一人称单数); eart, bist (现在第二人称单数); is, bið (现在第三人称单数); sind, sindon, beoð (现在所有人称的复数); wæs (过去第一人称和第三人称单数); wære (过去第二人称单数); wæron (过去所有人称的复数); wære (单数从句前置词); wæren (复数从句前置词)。

b-root"在古英语中没有过去时,但常作为 am/was 的将来时。在13世纪,它取代了 am/was 的不定式、分词和命令形式。后来它的复数形式( we beth, ye ben, they be )成为了中世纪英语的标准形式,并且它的单数形式( I be, thou beest, he beth )也有了进展,但是 are 的形式在15世纪时就占据了这个地盘,并且在复数形式中取代了 be 。关于这个纠结的 am/was 分支的起源和演变,见 amwas

That but this blow Might be the be all, and the end all. ["Macbeth" I.vii.5]

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Definitions of be from WordNet
1
be (v.)
have the quality of being; (copula, used with an adjective or a predicate noun);
John is rich
be (v.)
be identical to; be someone or something;
The president of the company is John Smith
be (v.)
occupy a certain position or area; be somewhere;
Where is my umbrella?
The toolshed is in the back
be (v.)
have an existence, be extant;
Synonyms: exist
be (v.)
happen, occur, take place; "I lost my wallet; this was during the visit to my parents' house";
There was a lot of noise in the kitchen
There were two hundred people at his funeral
be (v.)
be identical or equivalent to;
Synonyms: equal
be (v.)
form or compose;
The stone wall was the backdrop for the performance
Synonyms: constitute / represent / make up / comprise
be (v.)
work in a specific place, with a specific subject, or in a specific function;
She is our resident philosopher
Synonyms: follow
be (v.)
represent, as of a character on stage;
Derek Jacobi was Hamlet
Synonyms: embody / personify
be (v.)
spend or use time;
I may be an hour
be (v.)
have life, be alive;
Our great leader is no more
Synonyms: live
be (v.)
to remain unmolested, undisturbed, or uninterrupted -- used only in infinitive form;
let her be
be (v.)
be priced at;
Synonyms: cost
2
Be (n.)
a light strong brittle grey toxic bivalent metallic element;
Synonyms: beryllium / glucinium / atomic number "
From wordnet.princeton.edu