Learn English Verbs: ‘To be’ and ‘To have’ exercises

02 Nov 2017

Of all the English verbs, the most important two are ‘to be’ and ‘to have’. They are important because we use them as verbs for many different situations, and also as auxiliary verbs, so naturally they are the first verbs you learn. At Wall Street English, you learn how to use the main functions of ‘to be’ and ‘to have’ in the first levels, and then gradually learn all the uses step by step throughout the course. Let’s take a look at each verb and see how you can use them.

The Verb To Be

The verb ‘to be’ is the first verb we all learn to use. Why? Because it is used in many ways. We use ‘to be’ to:

  • give personal information, like name, origin, age
  • to describe feelings
  • to describe a person, place or object
  • as an auxiliary verb to make continuous tenses
  • as an auxiliary verb to make passive sentences

So you can see how important it is. Let’s start by looking at how to form the verb ‘to be’.


The verb ‘to be’ is an irregular verb, and even In the present simple it has three different forms – am, are and is:

As you can see, there are also contracted forms of the verb ‘to be’ which we frequently use in spoken English and in informal writing.

To make the negative form in the present simple, we add ‘not’. This can also be contracted to make ‘aren’t’ or ‘isn’t’:

To make questions with the verb ‘to be’, we invert the subject and the verb:

The irregular past forms of the verb ‘to be’ are as follows:

Uses of ‘to be’

giving and asking about personal data: name, age, origin, address, etc. For example:

  • What’s your name? – My name’s Henri.
  • How old is he? – He’s 25.
  • Where are they from? – They’re from Turkey.
  • What’s her job? – She’s an accountant.

 Describing your state and how you feel. For example:

  • How are you today? – I’m very well, thanks.
  • We’re hungry. Is there anything to eat?
  • The kids are bored. Why don’t we play a game?
  • You’re tired. You should go to bed.

 Describing people, places, and things. For example:

  • Paolo is tall and thin.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Dean are really kind and friendly.
  • What’s the weather like? – It’s cold and rainy…
  • Your car is much faster than mine.

Continuous tenses which describe progressive actions and situations in the past, present and future. For example:

  • You’re studying English.
  • What were they doing when you arrived? (were = the past of ‘are’)
  • I’ll be waiting for you at the entrance to the cinema.

Passive sentences which focus attention on the object of an action, in the present, past and future. For example:

  • Many types of wine are made in Italy.
  • This film was directed by Steven Spielberg.
  • The new version of this phone will be released next year.

The Verb To Have

The verb ‘to have’ is very common in English because it is used as a verb in several situations, and is also an important auxiliary verb. ‘To have’ can mean:

  • possess/own
  • eat or drink
  • take or receive
  • do/experience something
  • make something happen
  • as an auxiliary verb for perfect tenses


Like the verb ‘to be’, the verb ‘to have’ is an irregular verb. Here is the structure:

To make the negative form we add ‘don’t/doesn’t’ as we do with all other verbs, except the verb ‘to be’.

To make questions we use ‘do/does’:

The past form of ‘to have’ is also irregular:

Uses of ‘to have’

To describe things you own and possess. For example:

  • You have two sisters, don’t you?
  • They have three factories in Poland.
  • Does he have an apartment or a house?

To substitute ‘eat’ and ‘drink’. For example:

  • I have a coffee and a croissant for breakfast.
  • We’ll have the tomato soup as a starter, please.
  • Let’s have a snack before the game.

When you take or receive something

  • He has a new role in the company.
  • We have some bad news.
  • You have a phone call from a supplier.

Do/experience something

  • They have an exam on Monday morning.
  • I have a shower before I go to bed.
  • When it’s hot I have a swim in the sea.

Make something happen

  • She has her staff prepare a report once a month.
  • How often do you have your haircut?
  • We are having our house painted at the moment.

Used as an auxiliary verb to make perfect tenses, such as the present perfect and the past perfect

  • I’ve seen this film twice now.
  • They’ve lived here for nine years.
  • You had already left when I arrived.

‘Have got’

When we refer to things we own and possess, a common alternative to ‘have’ is ‘have got’. It’s probably more common in British English than in American English and can be considered more informal. The meaning is the same but the formation of the structure changes for the questions and negatives.

The negative for ‘have got’ is created using ‘not’:

The question form is created by inverting the subject and ‘have’:

Here are some examples of ‘have got’:

  • Have you got a pen I can borrow?
  • He’s got three sisters and one brother.
  • We haven’t got time to walk to the station.
  • I’ve got a meeting at 3 pm.