Scottish National Dictionary (1700–)

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BE, Bey, v.

A. Sc. forms of the substantive, copulative and auxiliary verb to be. For other parts see Is (am, are) and Was (were). [bi:, bi, bɪ Sc.; bɛi + bei + bæi s.Sc.]

I. Indicative mood be and bees.

1. Affirmative.

(1) Present tense in main clause be (sing. and pl.). Sc. 1725 Ramsay T. T. Misc. (1762) 170:
O waly, waly, but love be bonny, A little time while it is new.
Sc. [1826] R. Chambers Pop. Rhymes (1870) 198:
The heather-bleet, the mire-snipe, How many birds be that?

(2) Bees in subordinate clause after conjs., gen. of condition, gin, if, till. This is an old indic. form used for the subj. be. Sc. 1718 Nairne Peerage Evidence (1873) 34:
[To] receive and uplift the same and if need bees to call follow and pursue.
Sc. 1739 in C. D. Bentinck Dornoch Cath. and Par. (1926) 445:
They were fined severely by the Session Bailie, who ordered them “to pay their fines instantly or go to Prison therein to remain on their own proper Charges till Payment bees made.”
Sh.4 1933:
If du is or bees no.
Ork.(D) 1880 Dennison Orcad. Sk. Bk. 9:
Gin ony aen o you bees unwillan' tae fecht, let him lave the hoose, this meenit.
Abd. c.1692 A. Pitcairne Assembly (1722) 35:
Turb. I say, Mod. If he bee's admitted within these Walls, let him not come nigh any of us.
Edb. 1915 J. Fergus The Sodger, etc. (1916) 27:
For, gin the deil bees in the hoose, Frae there he'll mak' at me a spang.

2. Negative present.

(1) Binna, for be + na = not. [′bɪnə, ′binə] Rnf. 1825 Chield Morice in Poems and Ballads of Kilbarchan (ed. C. P. Lyle) (1931 2nd Series) 32:
Thou lies, thou lies, thou wylie nurse, Sae loud's I hear thee lie, I brocht it to Lord Barnard's lady, And I trow thou binna she.

(2) Bisna, bissent for beisna, beisnt (contr. for not) used after conjs., as 1 (2) above. [′bɪsnə, ′bɪsnt] Uls. 1880 W. H. Patterson Gl. Ant. and Dwn.:
I can carry it, if it bissent too weighty.
If it bisna the right thing, we canny work wi 'it.

II. Subjunctive mood.

1. Affirmative present be, bee, bees. (For last see 1 (2).)

(1) Expressing a doubt, condition, concession. Sc. 1746 James Duke of Perth in Earls of Cromartie (ed. Fraser 1876) II. 207:
Before it be two days, if they do not send us other orders, they will hear tell of our having done something.
m.Sc. 1926 Wilson Cent. Scot. 90:
The subjunctive of bee for both numbers and all three persons is in the present bee. . . . It is seldom used except in prayer, poetry, and proverbs.
Lnk. 1887 A. Wardrop Mid-Cauther Fair 238:
I'll . . . see what the inside be like.
Lnk. 1919 G. Rae 'Tween Clyde and Tweed 55:
Some said that Paitrick meddled wi' a dram, But be this sae he maun hae wrocht wi' care.

(2) Expressing a wish. Rxb. 1872 D.S.C.S. 242:
The Loard bey guid tui-ye.
Slk. 1813 Hogg Queen's Wake 83:
And wae be to all the ill wemyng, That lead puir men astray!

2. Negative present binna, beena, bynna, from be + na = not. [′bɪnə, ′binə] Sc. 1816 Scott Antiquary xi.:
I ken naebody but my brother, Monkbarns himsel, wad gae through the like o't, if, indeed, it binna you, Mr Lovel.
Sc. 1827 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 313:
Provided only she binna wrapt up a' thegither in a vile, cauld, nizzling, mizzling, drizzling, Scotch mist.
Abd.(D) 1770 A. Watson Wee Wifeikie (1921) 6:
O Quoth the wee bit wifeikie, I wish I binna fou.
Abd.(D) 1871 W. Alexander Johnny Gibb vi.:
Gin there binna herrin', gin ye cud get a gweed chape skate till her.
Mearns 1819 J. Burness Plays, Poems, etc. 15:
Shame fa' me, gin I beena o'er the lugs in a moss hole.
m.Sc. 1927 J. Buchan Witch Wood ii.:
God send they binna mony.
Edb. 1773 R. Fergusson Sc. Poems (1925) 32:
Be unco patientfu' and humble, Nor make a din, Tho' gude joot binna kend to rumble Your weym within.
Lnk. 1895 W. C. Fraser Whaups of Durley xiii.:
You're the only vesitor I've had the day, if it binna an impident vagabond o' a beggar.
s.Sc. 1873 D.S.C.S. 219:
Yf aa bynna.

III. Imperative mood.

1. Affirmative. m.Sc. 1926 J. Wilson Cent. Scot. 105:
Bee lawng seek dhut yee may bee sin weel — Be long sick that you may soon be well.

2. Negative. Sc. 1816 Scott O. Mortality xiv.:
Sae she says to me, Binna cast doun, but gird yoursell up to the great task o' the day.
Abd.(D) 1787 J. Skinner To Captain R — B — — in Amusements, etc. (1809) 95:
Now binna sayin' I'm ill bred, Else o' my troth, I'll no be glad.
Peb. 1805 J. Nicol Poems II. 59:
But now tak' heart, an' binna frightit, We bardies a' are second sightit.
Ayr. 1789 D. Sillar Poems 33:
But binna in owre great a haste.

IV. Infinitive mood. The inf. be instead of have is used before certain verbs of motion — e.g. arrive, come, grow, leave; gen., however, to express the resulting state or condition. wm.Sc. 1928 J. Corrie The Last Day 28:
“A lot o' rubbish,” said the father, “you'd been better wi' a pair o' pit buits seein' you'll sune be left the schule.”

V. Participles.

1. Pr.p. bein, bean, Gen.Sc. and used as in St.Eng. [= ′biɪn, ′bin, or ′biən]. S.Sc. has pr.p. beyan(d) [′bəian(d)] but gerund beying or beyin' [′bəiɪŋ, ′bəiɪn]. See Murray D.S.C.S. 1873, p. 219. [O.Sc. beande, beaund, being(e), beyng(e) (confused already with the gerund in ing). W.S. bēonde, pr.p. of bēon, to be.]

2. Past ppl. been used for a perf. or pluperf. through omission of 'v, 'd, contractions for have, had. [bin, bɪn] Ork.(D) 1904 Dennison Orcad. Sk. 4–5:
He stickid the swird i' his spick, an' Johnnie held on bae hid, an' sat as gin he been stride-legs on a horse back.
Abd. c.1692 A. Pitcairne Assembly (1722) 39:
But I been since consulting with Sir Littlelaw a Lawyer and Friend of ours.
Lnk. 1902 A. Wardrop Rob. Tamson's Hamely Sk. 45:
The very Church . . . wad been dark an' dismal mony a day syne.
[The elliptical use of the past ppls. of all verbs is common in Mod.Sc. after auxiliaries like would, should, etc. (see quot. 3 above). It is found also in O.Sc. from the 14th cent. See D.O.S.T. Been is also used in O.Sc. for are, is, am and inf. to be in imitation of Mid.Eng. bene, beene, ben, O.E. bēon.]

B. Meanings as in St.Eng., but note the following:

1. v. To stand, be at the expense of. Mry.1 1933:
Ye maun be your mutchkin wi' the lave.
Ayr. 1788 (publ. 1796) R. Burns Auld Lang Syne (Cent. ed.) ii.:
And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp.

2. Phrases: (1) Be at, find out, aim at finding out; (2) be for, to desire; (3) be to, (a) go to, be present at (obs. or dial., N.E.D.), (b) have to, see Bude; (4) be wi', to tolerate, bear with. (1) Abd. 1928 N. Shepherd Quarry Wood xvi.:
I'll be at the reet an' the rise o't.
Fif.1 1933:
What I would be at is this.
(2) Sc. 1819 Scott Bride of Lamm. vii.:
But ye'll no' be for butcher-meat? There's walth o' fat poultry, ready either for spit or brander.
Sc. 1826 Wilson Noctes Amb. (1855) I. 204:
You'll be for doin't yoursel — though I wad do't a hantle better.
(3) (a) Abd. 1933 Abd. Press and Jnl. (1 May) 3/1:
Everybody must “be to” a sale if there is one in their district.
(4) n.Sc. 1825 Old Ballad in Jam.2:
O haud your tongue wi' your weeping; Your weeping I maunna be wi'.

[O.Sc. pres. indic. be, bee; also beis, beys, beies, bes, beas, bis = is, art, are, shall be, used chiefly after subordinating conjs. like gif, that, instead of subj.; also bene, bein, beyn, byne = are, is, am; pres. subj. be, bee, bie, also beis; inf. be, bee, bei, bene, biene, beyn; imper. sing. be, pl. beis. For ppls. see V. 1, 2, above.]

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"Be v.". Dictionary of the Scots Language. 2004. Scottish Language Dictionaries Ltd. Accessed 22 Jan 2022 <>



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