Been vs. Being Differences Made Clear

, Staff Writer
Updated October 28, 2021
Been vs Being Example
    Been vs Being Example
    (alien)zoljo, (background) Ihor Biliavskyi

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.

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