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be (v.)

古英语 beon, beom, bion “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(bin, bist, 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