“Been” vs. “Being”: What’s The Difference?

The words been and being are both forms of the verb be. Despite being the most commonly used verb in the English language, be can also be one of the most confusing. This confusion can extend to been and being, which are used in some of the most complicated verb tenses.

In this article, we will break down the difference between been and being, explain the verb tenses in which each is used, and provide examples of the different ways they can be used in a sentence.

Quick summary

Been and being are two forms of the verb be. Been is the past participle of be that is used for the present perfect and past perfect verb tenses. Been is also used in combination with other verbs to form the three perfect continuous verb tenses. Being is the present participle and gerund form of be. It’s used to form continuous verb tenses and as a noun.

When to use been or being

The words been and being are forms of the irregular verb be. Been is the past participle and being is the present participle and gerund form.

Verbs are typically considered to be irregular verbs if their past tense form and/or past participle are not formed by adding -ed or -d to the end of their root form. This is the case with be, as its past tense forms are was/were and its past participle is been.

Be is an especially odd case of an irregular verb as it changes considerably when conjugated into its different forms (conjugation involves changes based on the subject and tense of the sentence). The verb be is conjugated as follows:

  • be: root/infinitive
    Example: I’d like to be helpful.
  • am: first person singular present tense
    Example: I am helpful.
  • is: third person singular present tense
    Example: She is helpful, and he is, too.
  • are: second person singular, all plurals present tense
    Example: They are both helpful.
  • was: first and third person singular past tense
    Example: He was helpful yesterday.
  • were: second person singular and all plurals past tense
    Example: They were both helpful yesterday.
  • been: past participle
    Example: She has been helpful, and they have been helpful, too.
  • being: present participle and gerund
    Example: You are being helpful. (present participle)

If you’re confused about the other tenses of be, check out our guides on the difference between is vs. are, was vs. were, and has been vs. have been.

But back to been and being. Though they can seem similar, they are used in different situations.

As the past participle, been is the form of be used in the present perfect (has been) and past perfect (had been) verb tenses.

For example:

  • She has been here all day.
  • They had been asleep for hours already by the time I arrived.

The word been is also used to form the three perfect continuous verb tenses—past, present, and future. In this case, it is combined with another verb in the continuous form.

For example:

  • I had been working in my office before the doorbell rang.
  • By the time the sun comes up tomorrow, she will have been writing for 10 hours straight.

As the present participle, being is the form of be used in continuous verb tenses.

For example:

  • I’m sorry I was being selfish yesterday.
  • She is being a nuisance right now.

Being is also the gerund form of be, which means that it can be used as a noun or as part of a noun phrase.

For example:

  • Being nice to everyone is just how I live my life.
  • When I’m on vacation, I focus on just being.

Been is always used with the auxiliary verbs has, have, had, and will have. As a present participle, being is not used with these auxiliary verbs, but it may possibly appear next to them when used as a noun.

Examples of been and being used in a sentence

Let’s take a look at the different ways that the words been and being can be used in sentences.

  • She has been in many popular movies.
  • Having been a chef, I know what it’s like being in a hot kitchen all day.
  • I have been meaning to tell you that you are being rude when you answer the phone like that.
  • When this year ends, I will have been living in the same place for two decades.
  • Emily says her new focus is on being a good person.
  • Being early for school every morning has been his goal this year.
  • He has been cooperative in the past, but he is not being cooperative now.

See how much you have learned with our quiz

To be or not to be a pro at using been or being, that is the question you can answer by taking our quiz on these two forms of the verb be. You may surprise yourself with what you’ve learned!

Learn the difference between when to use "was" and "were."

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