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"To be" is also used to express the passive voice in English, thus:

"This book is often criticized by academics." is the passive form of the sentence: "Academics often criticize this book."

Having been a contributor to this page, I think all this is very poorly analyzed and should be redone. Even my dictionary (American Heritage) does not call the meaning of "to be" as existence, a "copula." My linguistic training agrees with this notion, as well. RoseParks

Yeah, that kind of bugs me too. In a simple existence statement, "be" is the predicate itself, not a copula. One problem is that the concept of "copula" itself is not entirely solid. There's some good information here that should be retained, but it is somewhat unclear. I'll do a page on "copula" that we can link to make it easier to rewrite this one. --LDC

Who wrote that there's no verb "be" in Russian? That's silly. Yah shouldn't write stuff about what you don't know...first, say no falsehoods. (The philosopher's adaptation of "First, do no harm.") --LMS

In the Russian language, the verb byt' is the infinitive of "to be." The third person singular, yest' means "is" (and, interestingly enough, it is also the infinitive "to eat") but there is no present- but a future-tense (budet) and a subjunctive (byl/a by) copula in the Russian language. Yest' (in the non-gustatory sense) is restricted in use to express existence; On yest' means "He exists," while On yest' krasivyi is nonsense (though it is how an English speaker might try to translate "He is handsome"). There is a past-tense copula in the Russian language. E.g., one can say, Ona byla krasiva: "She was beautiful."
Is == eats? Compare German Man ist was man isst. You are what you eat. Compare Frank Zappa's song "You Are What You Is".
"Is" == "to eat". These words are often similar in IE languages (originating in PIE stems es-, and ed-, respectively - and their similarity is also interesting).

First of all, the verb byt' in Russian does have a past tense, byl (but no perfect form, by the way). Secondly, I see little interest in the fact that yest' means both "to eat" and "is" (although some interest is in their similarity - both going back to PIE, also 1st person present used to be yesm', much like the Latin sum). In addition, one can always say On yavlayetsya krasivym, "He is beautiful", so it's incorrect to say Russian can't use an auxiliary verb in the present tense. Finally, perhaps it all should be moved to To be (verb)? --Uriyan