There are really no "be" verbs. Theres
only onethe verb "to be." But any of its forms will do the
job: am, are, is, was, were, been, being, be, Im, hes, were,
youre, its, isnt, arent, aint, etc. (etc.
isnt one, in case you were wondering. And Im not really sure
about "aint" either).
Heres all you have to remember about be verbs:
"BE" IS FOR "BORING."
The idea of "being," of existence, is very abstract. It also
describes a stationary state. Something that simply "is" is not
necessarily doing anything. What you get, then, if you use lots of be verbs,
is a stationary abstraction.
Sounds like a pretty picky point, doesnt it? Sure, but when you
read something with 25 be verbs on one page, youll become a believer.
Itll put you to sleep. If you get your paper back with drool marks
all over your be verbs, youll know what happened. As a matter of fact,
if youve got more than 7 be verbs or so on one page, you ought to
try to trade a few in.
And what could you trade for be verbs? (Sort of reminds you of the guy
who walked into the auto parts store and said, "Can I get a windshield
wiper for my Yugo?" and the salesguy said, "Sounds like a fair
trade to me.")
You can trade them for Action Verbs!! You may have to rearrange your
sentence a little, but it usually works. One of the easiest ways to do it
is to find a new subject (be verbs are often used for the passive voice,
which means there is no subjecteasy to write, but boring to read).
Its tough at first, too, but you get a knack for it after a while.
Just be careful not to trade your be verb for another be verb somewhere
else in your sentence.
Try trading verbs on these sentences. Double-check your revisions:
- It was January seventh.
- His father was in the doorway.
- It was her fear that kept her from picking up the phone.
- Whats your name?
- What his name is?
- Your love is like a sacred emotion.
- Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
- Open adoption is the best choice.
Some of you are now thinking, "Hey! Youve got a lot of be
verbs in your writing here." And its true. Sorry. At least I
try to use lots of short sentences and concrete details here and there to
keep you awake.
- The calendar read January seventh.
- His father stood in the doorway.
- She stared at herself in the mirror. "Of all the days to get a
zit, why did it have to happen today?" she shouted in a whisper at
the image glaring back from the mirror. "Darn." Of course it
would happen todayjust two days before the big girls choice
dance. Katie had waited till the last minute to ask Brian because, well,
she had her reasons. But now, now that she also had a monster pimple on
the tip of her nose, now she really had reasons not to pick up the phone
and dial his number. Not that hed turn her downafter all, he
didnt have a date, either. Not that she couldnt hide most of
the wound with a deep coat of base. She frowned again into her reflection.
No, she wouldnt call. And she knew why, toosimple, good, old
- What do they call you (this is an example of somewhere you should keep
the be verbanything else sounds funny)?
- Youve got bigger problems than be verbs, buddy.
- Just delete this sentence and start over.
- Letter B, letter B, letter B, letter B.
- Open adoption takes much of the mystery out of the process. Most parties
find that it fills their needs better than closed adoption.
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