During his impeachment scandal, Bill Clinton infamously said, “It depends upon what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” Saying so was likely not very politically astute and it seems to have been irrelevant at the time. However, he was onto something interesting. So, what is the meaning of the English verb “to be”?

Here are some data to help you out. All of these use “to be” in various ways.

  1. Joan is nice.
  2. A screwdriver is vodka and orange juice.
  3. Justin Trudeau is a Liberal.
  4. Cats are mammals.
  5. Batman is Bruce Wayne.
  6. I think, therefore I am.
  7. Water is H2O

Fields you may wish to think about to help through this question and define the concept of “to be”: set theory, formal logic proper, comparative linguistics, and languages other than English. A little hint to avoid bending your brain too much: consider #7 last.

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