The Verb ‘Be’ in Present Simple: Negative & Questions

Be‘ is a very common verb in English. We use it to talk about many things, such as name, age, height, weight, time, place, weather, jobs, state, etc.

The verb 'be' in Present Simple
via https://www.slideshare.net/LizethMancera/are-you-happy-today

Negative forms of ‘be’ in Present Simple

To make negative sentences using be in the Present Simple, we just add ‘not‘ after the verb ‘be’.

SingularPlural
I am not (’m not)
You are not (aren’t)
He/she/is not (isn’t)
We are not (aren’t)
You are not (aren’t)
They are not (aren’t)

The verb ‘be’ takes the same form in positive and negative sentences. The only difference is that we add ‘not’.

  • I’m not a pupil, I’m a student.
  • They are not at home.
  • She isn’t in London, she’s in Paris.
  • We aren’t happy about this.
Note: “Is not” and “are not” can be contracted in two ways. The subject and verb can be contracted, or the verb and ‘not’.

You are not a doctor. (full form)
You’re not a doctor.
You aren’t a doctor.

She is not here right now. (full form)
She isn’t here right now.
She’s not here right now.

There isn’t/there aren’t

When we want to make a negative impersonal statement with ‘there is’ or ‘there are’, we can add ‘not‘ or ‘no‘ depending on the noun that follows.

  • There is no money in your wallet.
  • There aren’t any chairs at the table.
  • There isn’t enough food for everyone.

Questions with ‘be’ in Present Simple

To make questions with ‘be’ in the Present Simple, we put the verb before the subject and add a question mark at the end.

Compare positive statements and questions:

The verb be in questions
via http://enriquetrujilloingles.blogspot.com/2014/05/verb-be-questions.html

Yes/No questions

To create a question that will be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, put ‘Am‘/’Is‘/’Are‘ (or ‘Isn’t‘/’Aren’t‘ for a negative question) + before the subject.

  • Are you in the office? –No, I’m not. I’m still at home.
  • Is she alone in New York City? – No, she isn’t. She is with her boyfriend.
  • Oh, are they happy to be there together?

Note: In short positive answers to the questions with the verb ‘be’ we use only full forms of ‘am/is/are’. In short negative answers we can also use short forms of ‘
am/is/are’.

Special questions

Special questions (also known as wh-questions) are questions that require more information in their answers. They are made using wh- words such as what, where, when, why, which, who, how, how many, how much.

To make a special question, use the same word order as with yes-no questions but put a wh-word before the verb ‘be’. The structure is:

wh- word + am/is/are + the rest of the sentence

  • Where is your brother?
  • How are you today?
  • Why are you here?

The verb be may be contracted:

  • What’s your hobby?
  • Why’s your toy on the floor?

However, we usually do not contract a question word and the ‘are’ form of be:

  • Where are you?
  • Where’re you? (not used in most situations)
  • When are we leaving?
  • When’re we leaving? (not used in most situations)

Watch this video from Kyle Rolofson to see how the verb ‘be’ is used in questions and negative statements:

See also:

The Verb ‘Be’ in Present Simple: Statements

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