Although “been” and “being” sound similar and come from the same root word, they actually mean different things. Understanding these differences and looking at examples can help you learn how to use been and being in a sentence correctly.
Been vs. Being Differences Made Clear
Three Different Meanings for “Been”
While “been” and “being” both come from the irregular verb “to be,” they have different meanings. “Been” can mean three different things, and understanding those meanings can help you know when to use this word.
“Been” Can Mean Visited
One of the simplest ways to use “been” is when talking about someplace someone has visited. It’s used with helping verbs like “had,” “has,” or “have.”
- We have been to all 50 states.
- He has been to France.
- They have been to every movie starring Harrison Ford.
- I have been to the art museum.
- She has been to the new Japanese restaurant downtown.
“Been” Can Refer to Continuing Action or Existence
Another use of “been” is to refer to something that happened or existed in the past and continues to happen in the present. This can be abstract or concrete, and “been” is once again used with forms of the auxiliary verb “to have.”
- She had been sick for two weeks.
- I have been waiting for a call from you.
- It has been raining for days.
- They have been misbehaving ever since their father left for work.
- You have been driving me crazy.
“Been” Can Indicate Past Support
Less commonly, “been” can be used with the words “there” or “here” to indicate past support. It is the past tense of “be there” or “be here.” Again, it is used with forms of the helper verb “to have.”
- She has been there for me when I needed her.
- The emergency fund has been there to help people.
- Our friends have been there for us.
- We have been here for you all along.
- As my sister, you have been there when I needed you most.
Two Different Meanings for “Being”
Understanding the various meanings of “being” will help you see how it differs from “been.” One key difference is that “being” can also be used as a noun, while “been” is always a verb.
“Being” Can Mean an Entity or Existence
You can use “being” as a noun to mean a person or intelligent entity. It can also mean the existence of something. These examples will help you understand.
- I am a human being.
- All beings wonder about the meaning of life.
- When the spaceship landed, I saw an alien being emerge.
- The law was called into being.
- I’m not sure if it was a ghost, but I saw some kind of being walk down the hallway.
“Being” Can Show Current Behavior or Action
As a verb, “being” can indicate an ongoing or current behavior, an action, or a state of existence. It is used with the helper verbs “are,” “am,” “was,” and “were,” all of which are forms of the verb "to be."
- You are being ridiculous.
- They were being disruptive during class.
- You were being a bully, and you should know it’s wrong.
- Thank you for being my friend.
- The baby is being born today.
Six Key Difference Between “Been” and “Being”
Now that you understand the different meanings for these words, you’ll be able to see why they are used differently in speech and writing. Keep the following key differences in mind.
1. Only “Being” Is a Noun
“Been” can never be a noun. “Being,” on the other hand, can serve this function.
- All human beings seek love.
- I sensed some kind of being in my room.
- All beings value their lives.
2. “Being” and “Been” Indicate Different Times
Being refers to the present or a continuous action, while “been” refers to the past or to something that started in the past but is continuing into the present.
- My resolve is being tested. (present)
- I have been to Cuba. (past)
- She has been there for me all along. (past and continuous)
3. Only “Being” Can Start a Clause
You can’t start a clause with the word “been,” but you can do this with the word “being.” You’ll sometimes see this at the beginning of sentences.
- Being a musician, I don’t go anywhere without my harmonica.
- Being late, I skipped brushing my hair.
- Being a bit of a prankster, she filled her brother’s lunch box with toy spiders.
4. Only “Being” Can Be a Gerund
A gerund is a verb that can act as a noun. They always end in -ing, so only “being” can serve this function.
- Being silly is fun sometimes.
- Being a cat seems like it would be easy.
- Being hungry makes me want to buy everything at the grocery store.
5. “Been” and “Being” Use Different Helping Verbs
While “been” and “being” can be helping verbs themselves, they also need an additional auxiliary verb or helping verb to form a verb phrase. This sounds complicated, but it means they don’t always stand on their own. The helping verbs they use are different, however.
“Been” uses “have,” “has,” and “had”:
- I had been to the zoo before this.
- We have been waiting for you.
- It has been a long day.
“Being” uses “were,” “are,” “is,” “am,” and “was”:
- We were being moved from one room to another.
- They are being rude.
- She is being strong, despite the challenges.
- I am being serious right now.
- He was being transferred to a different position in the company.
6. Only “Been” Can Be Used Hypothetically
Only “been” can be used to describe something that might occur or might have occurred but is not certain. These hypothetical scenarios start with the “would have,” “could have,” or “should have.”
- It would have been easy to trick a two-year-old into giving up her candy.
- Harry should have been the one to take out the trash.
- I could have been class president if I had really tried.
Test Yourself on “Been” and “Being”
Wondering if you know how to use “been” and “being” in a sentence? Test yourself with these examples. The answers are at the end of the article.
- I have _____ to every home game.
- I could have _____ the one to win the prize for the best personal essay.
- Erin is ______ difficult and refusing to cooperate on the project.
- ______ a comic book fan, I have read every Spider-Man comic ever written.
- Grayson loves _____ a big brother.
- As a human ______, I care about the world.
- The weather has ______ fantastic for our vacation.
- Have you ______ to the bowling alley lately?
- There are different theories about how humans came into _____.
- They have _____ having trouble with the essay questions.
Feel More Confident
Like many misused words, “been” and “being” are easy to confuse. However, when you understand the differences, you can feel more confident when you use them in speech or writing.
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