Being and Been

Writers occasionally confuse the words being and been. As a rule, the word been is always used after have (in any form, e.g., has, had, will have, having). The word being is never used after have. Being is used after to be (in any form, e.g., am, is, are, was, were).

  • I have been busy.
  • Terry has being taking the stores to the shelter.
  • (Remember, being cannot follow the verb to have (here, has).)

Being as a Noun

The word being can also be a noun. For example:
  • A human being
  • 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). 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. (Oscar Wilde)

A Quick Test

Been and Being Are 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, 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.)