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Grammar Common Spelling Mistakes 4 min2023-03-14 00:00

Has Been vs Was: What’s the Difference?

has been vs was

Verb tenses are an important aspect of English grammar because they describe the time frame in which an action or state of being occurs.

Choosing the correct verb tense, however, can get tricky. For example, many people use has been and was incorrectly.

Has been is a form of the present perfect continuous tense, while was is a form of the simple past tense.

Read on to find out more about the differences between has been vs was.

Has Been vs Was Definitions

Was and has been are both used to refer to the past, but they do this in different ways. 

Was is the past tense of the verb “to be.” Has been is the present perfect continuous tense, combining the auxiliary verb “has” with the past participle of “to be,” which is “been.” 

When to Use Was

Was is the first-person and third-person singular past tense of the verb “to be.” It is used to describe an event or state of being that happened in the past and is now concluded.

For example, “I was tired” means that you were feeling tired at some point in the past.

Since was is a singular past tense verb, it can only be used with the singular pronouns “I,” “she,” “he,” and “it.” It should also only be used with singular nouns.

Let’s look at the correct and incorrect use of was in a sentence.

  • Correct: She was early for class.

  • Incorrect: They was early for class.

  • Incorrect: Clara and Sarah was early for class

The second sentence is incorrect because “they” is a plural pronoun. Similarly “Clara and Sarah” are plural noun subjects, so the last sentence is also incorrect. 

has been vs was definition

Examples of Was in Sentences 

Here are some more examples of was in a sentence:

  • She was at the restaurant until eleven.

  • She was happy when she received the news.

  • This was a very interesting experience for them.

  • Water was dripping from the trees, and the grass was wet.

  • His attention was focused on two riders approaching.

  • He had an amazing imagination when he was a child.

  • We turned down the music because it was too loud.

When to Use Has Been 

Has been is the present perfect continuous tense. It suggests an action that started in the past but continues in the present. 

The present perfect continuous tense is formed using the construction has been + the present participle (root + -ing). 

Let’s look at an example sentence to explain this tense formation.

  • He has been feeling anxious lately.

The sentence above suggests that the state of being anxious is an ongoing event that started in the past.

It's important to note that like was, has been is also used with the third person singular (“he,” “she,” and “it”) and singular nouns only. 

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Examples of Has Been in Sentences

Let’s look at some examples of has been used in sentences.

  • She has been crying all morning.

  • Gary has been working for the same company for the past 10 years.

  • Sue has been busy with the baby all day.

  • The baby has been sleeping for five hours now.

  • He has been playing football for a long time.

Conclusion on Has Been vs Was

In summary, was and has been are both used to talk about the past, but they do this in different ways. 

Was is the past tense form of the phrase “to be” and is used to describe events that happened at a specific point in the past. 

On the other hand, “has been” is a verb form that is used to talk about an ongoing event or state of being that started in the past and is still happening. 

Using the correct verb tense is important for clarity and precision in writing and speaking. Incorrect verb tenses can lead to confusion and can make it difficult for the reader or listener to understand the intended meaning. 

You can always use a grammar checker like ProWritingAid to check all your writing for any instances of wrong tenses. Even better, ProWritingAid’s grammar checker will show you how to correct it.

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