to be verb usage in simple tense

thenoidian

Member
Arabic
Hi everyone. in terms of semantics, Is it correct to say that to be verbs (in simple tense) express a state or description of someone or something e.g Name, occupation, emotional and physical status etc. while other verbs show an action like Go, Think and so on?

The reason I am posing this question is that in my country, due to L1 interference, English language students often misuse to be verbs by adding them to a sentence with a regular verb e.g "I am play football everyday". I'm looking for a way to show them how to distinguish to be verbs form other regular (and irregular but non-to-be verbs).
P.S. I'm just talking about simple present and simple past tense.
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Well, verbs used in the simple present for present states usually don't describe actions: 'think' isn't an action, nor is 'like' or 'resemble' or 'want'. Actions typically use the present continuous (I am going, I am eating).

    And I also want to know what you mean by 'to be verbs' - forms of the verb 'be' (am, is, are)?

    I suspect the interference is because Arabic can use nouns and adjectives as predicators, without need of 'be': Hasan tall; Ahmad teacher. So as they have to learn to add a form of 'be' with these, they also do it when the predicator is a verb, like 'play'.
     

    thenoidian

    Member
    Arabic
    Well, verbs used in the simple present for present states usually don't describe actions: 'think' isn't an action, nor is 'like' or 'resemble' or 'want'. Actions typically use the present continuous (I am going, I am eating).

    And I also want to know what you mean by 'to be verbs' - forms of the verb 'be' (am, is, are)?

    I suspect the interference is because Arabic can use nouns and adjectives as predicators, without need of 'be': Hasan tall; Ahmad teacher. So as they have to learn to add a form of 'be' with these, they also do it when the predicator is a verb, like 'play'.
    I live in Iran now and the language is Persian. By describing actions I wanted to contrast it with states.
    in the sentence " I play tennis everyday" the subject does something on a regular basis( not at the moment of course ). but in "He is a teacher" the subject doesn't perform any action, he is just being described (i.e. "a teacher" is a subject complement) . Am I wrong about that?
     
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    Oddmania

    Senior Member
    French
    I mean am, is, are
    Alright, I see. I was confused because to me this is one verb: the verb "to be". It is the simplest and the most basic of all verbs, and it is therefore rather difficult to define. It does express a characteristic or a state, yes.

    If we leave continuous tenses (and the passive voice) out of the picture, then "to be" can typically only be followed by a noun or an adjective:
    He is a boy.
    She is clever.
    Those nouns or adjectives define the subject or describe a characteristic of theirs.

    Action verbs (transitive verbs) can also be followed by nouns: He plays video games. But you're right that there's a difference between a noun that follows the verb "to be" and a noun that follows the verb "to play".

    A noun that follows a transitive verb is a direct objects: He plays games, she eats food, they write letters, etc.

    The verb "to be", like many state verbs ("to become, to seem, to stay", etc.), often acts as a copula. Nouns that follow copulas are not considered direct objects, but predicates: so yes, sementically speaking there is a difference between "I kissed a boy" and "I am a boy". The first "boy" is the direct object of a transitive, action verb and the second "boy" is the predicate of a copula.
    I suspect the interference is because Arabic can use nouns and adjectives as predicators, without need of 'be': Hasan tall; Ahmad teacher. So as they have to learn to add a form of 'be' with these, they also do it when the predicator is a verb, like 'play'.
    Very interesting, I didn't know that.
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I am play football everyday
    The problem seems to be that they don't recognize 'am' as an auxiliary verb, which is used in certain tense formations but not in others.
    I am playing vs I play.
    In this sentence, 'am' has a meaning different from the one it has in 'I am tall'.

    Forms of 'be' are also used in the passive forms, though this may give your students less trouble.
    I am praised.
    He is loved.
     
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