The “to be” Verb in College Writing

Writing Tutorial

The "to be" Verb in College Writing


There are several ways to write a college essay. One thing professors look for is how does your essay sound? How does it flow? Does it feel good, or is it unnatural? One way to help the flow of your paper is by eliminating as many unnecessary “to be” verbs as you can. It sounds impossible, I know. Here are some quick examples of the “to be” verb: this is… this can be… that will be… this is indicating… this is saying… this is being… to be able to… and so on.
College professors get bored of this verb, and it doesn’t really actually mean anything. It’s transitive. It brings an idea from one section of your sentence, to the other. In order to clean up a paper, it’s easy to eliminate those pesky “to be” verbs!

Sample Problem

There are many benefits to being able to produce genetically modified foods that are outweighing the current risks.


1. There are many unnecessary “to be” verbs in this sentence. Let’s take a look at the second. Often times, the first to be verb is a bit more complicated to eliminate, so let’s begin with the second.
“…benefits to being able to produce…” in this section the word produce is already a verb. The “to be” verb is entirely unnecessary. So let’s take it out and see what we get:
“…benefits to produce genetically modified foods…” Now all we have to do is fix the verb “produce” and make it “producing.”
2. Now stick that in your sentence and see what happens:
“There are many benefits to producing genetically modified foods that are outweighing the current risks.” By adding the “ing” to the verb, we are able to replace to “to be” verb.
3. So you understand how to remove the second “to be” verb, perfect! Now let’s look at the first one.
“There are many benefits to producing genetically modified foods…” This seems like an impossible situation to a lot of new writers. How can I say what I think something is, without saying that it is? But it’s possible.
Instead of saying, “There are many benefits” assert that the benefits exist, and there’s no question to that. The quantifier “many” is unnecessary in this case, your essay will show your reader that there are many benefits! No need for it here. So let’s try this:
“There are benefits to producing genetically modified foods that are outweighing the current risks.” Well now the “to be” verb sounds silly, doesn’t it? There’s one quick and simple change; instead of having the assertion that there are benefits, try something like “The benefits of producing genetically modified foods are outweighing the current risks.”
All we did there was take out the “There are” phrase, put in a “the” and then fixed the grammar around it. Normally, what sounds right to you is the correct grammar. If it doesn’t sound right, there’s a reason.
4. Let’s get rid of that last “are.” There’s an easy and quick way to do it. All we need to do is the opposite of what we did in step 1. We are going to take the “ing” from the verb, and use to actual verb instead of attaching the “to be” to it. So instead of saying “The benefits of producing genetically modified foods are outweighing the current risks.” let’s try changing “are outweighing” to “outweigh.” This changes your sentence to:
“The benefits of producing genetically modified foods outweigh the current risks.” Now you have a “to be” free sentence!
The three ways I’ve outlined here of eliminating “to be” verbs are very common in college level writing. These issues are very easy to fix, and easy to find. Sometimes, the “to be” verb is necessary, but not as often as you might think. Eliminating the “to be” verb gives your essay a better flow, and it gives your professor or teacher the idea that you know what you’re talking about!

About The Author

English Expert And Writing Tutor
Hi, my name is Julianne Dupont. I'm a student at Central Connecticut State University. I'm expected to graduate in 2017 with my bachelors degree in English, and a minor in Sociology. I'm very knowledgeable on all kinds of literature and writing skills. I have a 3.14 GPA as of right now, for my major...
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