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to be stuck between a rock and a hard place


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WordReference Random House Learner's Dictionary of American English © 2015
be /bi; unstressed bi, bɪ/USA pronunciation v. and auxiliary verb. Present forms: singular;
1st person form:
am,2nd person form: are,3rd person form:is.Present plural form:are. Past forms: singular;
1st person form:
was,2nd person form:were,3rd person form:was.Past plural form:were. Present subjunctive form:be.Past subjunctive form:were. Present participle form:be•ing.Past participle form:been.

v. [usually: not: be + ~-ing]
  • to have (the quality, job, etc., mentioned);
    used to connect the subject with an adjective, or to another noun or a phrase in order to describe, identify, or say more about the subject: Wilt is tall . I am Barbara . Indira Gandhi was the first woman prime minister of India.
  • to exist or live: Shakespeare's famous line "To be or not to be'' asks if life is worth living. There is a man with five cats on my street (= A man with five cats lives/exists on my street).
  • See definition 10 below.
  • to take place;
    occur: The wedding was last week.
  • to occupy a place or position: The book is on the table. We will be in Oslo in a few minutes. Where were you?
  • to belong to a group:Whales are mammals.
  • to continue or remain as before: Let things be.
  • (used as a verb to introduce a question or in a command, request, or piece of advice):Is that right? Be quiet! Don't be so mean. Be careful about what you say.
  • (used after it or there in order to delay talking about the real subject of a sentence, or as a way of introducing something new about the subject):It was she who was late for the class (real subject = "she''). There was a fly in my soup (real subject = "fly'').Note: in sentences with there, the form of be agrees with the real subject that follows:There was a fly in my soup ("was'' agrees with "fly''); There were flies in my soup ("were'' agrees with "flies'').
  • See there, it.
  • (used in a short answer where it stands for a longer phrase that has be in the question):Is he coming? Yes, he is (= Yes, he is coming.) Are you the new president of the Chinese club? No, I am not (= No, I am not the new president of the Chinese club).
  • (used in a short question, called a tag question, that comes after a subject and verb to ask for the listener's agreement):She is not very pretty, is she? You are running pretty hard, aren't you?

  • auxiliary verb. 
  • (used with the -ing form (the present participle) of another, main verb to show continuous activity ): I am waiting. We were talking .
  • (used with to plus the root form (the infinitive) of another verb to express a command, or indicate future action): He is to see me today (= He will see me today). You are not to leave before six (= You must not leave before six). I am to start my new job next week (= I will start my new job next week).
  • (used with the past participle of another verb to form the passive voice, that is, to show the action of the verb has been done to the subject of the sentence): The policeman was shot. Your passports have been sent on.
  • The verb be is special in English, first because it functions as an auxiliary , but also in the way it works as a main verb. It changes forms depending on its subject in the present and past tenses . Like the verbs do and have, the verb be comes first in questions that can be answered with the words "yes'' or "no'': Am I sure? Is she crazy? Are you there? Finally, the verb be can have the word not after it (again like do and have): She is not crazy. When be is used as a main verb, it seldom is used in the progressive tenses;
    we indicate this in this book by the symbol [not: be + ~-ing]. When talking about people's activity or how they behave, sometimes be as a main verb can take the -ing form of itself: I'm being careful (= I am acting in a careful manner);
    You're being so patient (
    = You are acting in so patient a manner). We do not use be in the -ing form to talk about states of the mind, or of feeling: I am happy now (not: I am being happy now);
    He is tired now (not: He is being tired now).

    be-, prefix. 
  • be- is attached to words to make verbs with the meaning "to make, become, treat as'': be- + cloud → becloud (= make like a cloud, hard to see);
    be- + friend → befriend ( = treat someone as a friend).
  • be- is also attached to adjectives and verbs ending in -ed to mean "covered all over;
    completely;
    all around'':be- + decked → bedecked ( = decked or covered all over); be- + jeweled → bejeweled (= covered with jewels).

  • B.E., an abbreviation of:
  • Education, Bachelor of Education.
  • Education, Bachelor of Engineering.


  • Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

    be /biː; (unstressed) / vb ( pres. sing. 1st pers am, 2nd pers are, 3rd pers is, pres. pl are, past sing 1st pers was, 2nd pers were, 3rd pers was, past pl were, pres. part being, past part been)(intransitive)
    1. to have presence in the realm of perceived reality; exist; live: I think, therefore I am, not all that is can be understood
    2. (used in the perfect or past perfect tenses only) to pay a visit; go: have you been to Spain?
    3. to take place; occur: my birthday was last Thursday
    4. (copula) used as a linking verb between the subject of a sentence and its noun or adjective complement or complementing phrase. In this case be expresses the relationship of either essential or incidental equivalence or identity (John is a man; John is a musician) or specifies an essential or incidental attribute (honey is sweet; Susan is angry). It is also used with an adverbial complement to indicate a relationship of location in space or time (Bill is at the office; the dance is on Saturday)
    5. (takes a present participle) forms the progressive present tense: the man is running
    6. (takes a past participle) forms the passive voice of all transitive verbs and (archaically) certain intransitive ones: a good film is being shown on television tonight, I am done
    7. (takes an infinitive) expresses intention, expectation, supposition, or obligation: the president is to arrive at 9.30, you are not to leave before I say so
    Etymology: Old English bēon; related to Old High German bim am, Latin fui I have been, Greek phuein to bring forth, Sanskrit bhavati he is



    BE abbreviation for
    1. bill of exchange
    2. Bachelor of Education
    3. Bachelor of Engineering



    Be the chemical symbol for
    1. beryllium




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