The verb be has
multiple forms: be, am, is, are, was, were,
being, been. They are necessary to writing and
work well in certain scenarios. There are times,
however, when be verbs are unnecessary,
creating sentences that are wordy or dull. Before
we discuss ideal uses of be verbs, we need
– A word used
to modify a noun or pronoun – the blue arrow,
the youngest student, the best option.
– A verb form
that can be part of a verb phrase – The foreman
has decided to fire the inept employee.
Participle – A
participle that ends in the –ing form – She was
thinking about breaking her engagement.
Verb – A
linking verb is a type of verb (often a to be
verb) that directly relates the subject with the
rest of the sentence – Nick is a silly man.
verbs work well when they
are used as linking verbs (ex. The door on the left
is the exit.), that is, when they link a noun
in the subject of a sentence to a noun or
descriptive adjective in the predicate (ex. The
paper was incredibly dull.). Be verbs
are also effective as helping verbs before present
participles to express action that is ongoing in the
present (Jessica is planning the anthropology
syllabus.) or ongoing in the past (Jessica was
planning the anthropology syllabus.).
The problem with be
verbs can occur when they make sentences too long or
difficult to read. Also, be verbs tend to
make sentences passive rather than active.
The need for employees was so great that
the traditional segregation of the labor force
was unable to be maintained, and
for the first time women were
allowed to move into occupations that had
been generally reserved for men.
Now, consider the same
sentence reconfigured to remove the be verbs.
tremendous need for employees disrupted the
traditional segregation of the labor force,
allowing women to move into occupations
generally reserved for men.
The revised version of the
sentence is more active, concise, and precise,
making it clearer for the reader.
Use helping to be
verbs, such as is, when you have a
progressive verb, a verb with a participle ending
that expresses ongoing action.
Ernest is marching.
However, if the action is
constant or ongoing, the best course often
is to change the helping to be verb to an
Bailyn’s is emphasizing how the
oppositionist writers were influencing
the Americans due to the particular life
circumstances of the colonists.
The following is an
example of this same sentence with the direct action
verb modified to remove the be verb.
Bailyn emphasizes how the oppositionist writers
influenced the Americans due to he particular
life circumstances of the colonists.
Restricting the use of
be verbs will help you keep the document crisp
and the sentence construct active.