Being or Been?

The Quick Answer
What is the difference between "been" and "being"?

Use "been" after the verb "to have" (e.g., has, have, had, having). For example:
  • I have been to Paris.
  • The puma has been seen in the city.
Use "being" after the verb "to be" (e.g., am, is, are, was, were). For example:
  • The greatest benefit is being in Paris.
  • He was being an idiot.

Being or Been?

Writers occasionally confuse the words "being" and "been" because they sound similar and both come from the verb "to be."

As a rule, the word "been" is always used after "to have" (in any of its forms, e.g., has, had, will have, having). Conversely, the word "being" is never used after "to have." "Being" is used after "to be" (in any of its forms, e.g., am, is, are, was, were).

Examples:
  • I have been busy.
  • Terry has being taking the stores to the shelter.
  • (Remember that "being" cannot follow the verb "to have" (here, has).)
being or been?
Been or being? This flow diagram will get you the right answer.

The Words "Been" and "Being" Are Participles

Let's get technical for a second.

Been is a Past Participle. The word "been" is the past participle of the verb "to be." As such, it can be used with "have" (in all its guises) to form tenses in the perfect (or complete) aspect. For example:
  • The dog has been naughty.
  • (The action is over. It's completed.)
  • More gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has been taken from the earth. (Author Napoleon Hill)
  • (The action is completed.)
"Being" is a Present Participle. The word "being" is the present participle of the verb "to be." As such, it can be used with "be" (in all its guises) to form tenses in the progressive (or continuous) aspect. For example:
  • The dog is being naughty.
  • (The action is ongoing. It's continuing.)
  • More gold is being mined from the thoughts of men than is being taken from the earth.
  • (The action is continuing.)

"Being" as a Noun

The word "being" can be a common noun. In this use, it means a person or creature. For example:
  • I'm not an animal. I'm a human being. (The Elephant Man)
  • A strange being stepped out of the space ship.

"Being" as a Gerund

The word "being" can also be a gerund, which is a type of noun. In this use, it has a meaning similar to existing. For example:
  • Do you like being so ignorant?
  • The accident was caused by his being so clumsy.
  • I live in terror of not being misunderstood. (Playwright Oscar Wilde)
  • Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. (Mother Teresa)

More about "Been" and "Being" as Participles

"Being" is the present participle of the verb to be. (For comparison, cooking is the present participle of the verb to cook.)

"Been" is the past participle of the verb to be. (For comparison, cooked is the past participle of the verb to cook.)

Often participles are used as adjectives before nouns, but being and been are not used this way. Look at these examples with the past participles deleted and broken and the present participles cooking and running.
  • Broken link.
  • Deleted file.
  • Cooking sauce.
  • Running shoes.
Even though "been" and "being" are participles, they are not used as adjectives before nouns.
  • The been car.
  • (What does this mean? The car that used to be a car? This is nonsense.)
  • The being tree.
  • (The tree that is a tree? This is nonsense.)
"Been" is always used in conjunction with the verb to have, which is its auxiliary verb. The auxiliary verb for "being," on the other hand, is the verb to be (e.g., is, are, was). For example:
  • He is being stupid.
  • He is been stupid.
  • (Remember that been goes with has.)
  • He has been stupid.
However, "being" can act as an adjective before a noun (or a pronoun) when it is joined by other words to form a participle phrase.
  • Being such a lazy oaf, Tony often drives to the nearby shops.
  • (Being such a lazy oaf is a participle phrase that describes Tony.)
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited and printed to create exercise worksheets.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
What are adjectives? What are nouns? What are pronouns? What are gerunds? What are verbs? What are past participles? What are auxiliary verbs? List of easily confused words