‘Be’ Verbs in a Contrastive Perspective: The Case of BÝT, BE and VÆRE


  • Anna Čermáková Lancaster University
  • Jarle Ebeling University of Oslo
  • Signe Oksefjell Ebeling University of Oslo




‘be’, verbs, corpus-based contrastive analysis, International Comparable Corpus, Czech-English-Norwegian, adjective classification, linking verbs


This paper reports on a cross-linguistic study of ‘be’ verbs in Czech, English and Norwegian, viz. být, be and være, drawing on data from the fiction part of the International Comparable Corpus (Čermáková et al. 2021). The study identifies two main uses of ‘be’ verbs: auxiliary and linking, plus an ‘other’ category which includes minor (often) language-specific uses. The study reveals marked proportional differences in how the three languages exploit the grammatical and functional potential of their respective ‘be’ verbs, notably there is a marked preference for linking uses in English and Norwegian and a more even distribution between auxiliary and linking uses in Czech. In a case study of the linking use, the languages are shown to behave similarly, but with some minor differences regarding choice of adjective to describe fictional subjects. The methodology highlights the importance of a carefully crafted tertium comparationis at several levels, not only in relation to datasets and linguistic phenomena investigated, but also as regards terminology and grammatical traditions of description for the languages compared.




How to Cite

Čermáková, A., Ebeling, J., & Oksefjell Ebeling, S. (2023). ‘Be’ Verbs in a Contrastive Perspective: The Case of BÝT, BE and VÆRE. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 22(2), 27–58. https://doi.org/10.35360/njes.729