Grammar Have Been vs. Has Been vs. Had Been: How to Use Each One Correctly |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Have Been vs. Has Been vs. Had Been: How to Use Each One Correctly

The verb phrases have been, has been, and had been all have closely related meanings. That similarity may at times lead to confusion about the right time to use each construction.

In today’s review we will discuss the differences among the phrases so you can use each one correctly when you are speaking or writing.

When and How to Use Have Been or Has Been

Have been and has been are verb constructions that are used in the present perfect tense and the present perfect progressive tense.

The present perfect tense identifies an action or a state that took place at an unspecified time in the past. The present perfect progressive expresses an ongoing activity that started in the past and continues into the present.

Examples

I have been to that city. (present perfect)

Shane has not been working on the tractor of late. (present perfect progressive)

We would use have been when the sentence subject is I, you, we, or the third-person plural (the children have been studying grammar all morning; they have been studying all morning).

If the sentence subject is a third-person singular noun (he, she, it, Courtney), we would use the phrase has been.

Examples

Courtney has been a team leader before. (present perfect)

It has been drifting through my mind lately. (present perfect progressive)

As you can see, have been and has been have the same related usage and meaning. The main difference between them is the form that is determined by the subject performing the action.

When and How to Use Had Been

Had been is similar to have been and has been, except that it identifies actions that both began and ended in the past. It is used in the past perfect and past perfect progressive tenses. Where have been and has been suggest a past point in time that remains open and unfinished, had been indicates something that is closed and completed.

Examples

Until Roger became manager, the repair records had been vague at best. (past perfect)

I had been feeling sad before my parents gave me a puppy. (past perfect progressive)

In these examples, the verb refers to something that both started and ended in the past.

Pop Quiz

Fill in each blank with the proper use of have been, has been, or had been according to the tense given.

1. Nicole _____ working hard these days to improve her grades at school. (present perfect progressive)

2. We _____ dreaming about this day for months. (present perfect progressive)

3. The team _____ on a three-game losing streak before tonight’s win. (past perfect)

4. I don’t know anyone else who _____ to the new theater production yet. (present perfect)

5. I _____ thinking a lot about my future lately. (present perfect progressive)

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Nicole has been working hard to improve her grades at school.

2. We have been dreaming about this day for months.

3. The team had been on a three-game losing streak before tonight’s win.

4. I don’t know anyone else who has been to the new theater production yet.

5. I have been thinking a lot about my future lately.

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68 responses to “Have Been vs. Has Been vs. Had Been: How to Use Each One Correctly”

  1. G.P. TSIMANE says:

    Do we say 200 has been absent or 200 have been absent?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      “Have been” is used with the plural subject “200”; however, our Rule 1 of Writing Numbers says,”Spell out all numbers beginning a sentence. Therefore, write “Two hundred have been absent.”

  2. Lungile Ngcobo Ngcobo says:

    I learned a lot here. I have been learning to use have been, has been, and had been in sentences. I really understood it very well. I really appreciate it.

  3. LA Menoza says:

    Both approval have been received. Is this correct?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      The word “both” implies two of something; therefore, you need to use the plural noun approvals.
      Both approvals have been received.

  4. David says:

    I have a curiosity regarding the sentence: ‘Nicole has been working hard to improve her grades at school.’.

    If it were to write “is working” instead of “has been working,” therefore using the present continuous tense, would that change its meaning somehow? Aren’t both of the sentences meaning that Nicole started working hard (at some indefinite point in the past) and continues to do so even now (at this certain moment)?

    Couldn’t it be more simple to use the present continuous instead of the present perfect progressive, in general? How about in this case?

    Thank you so much!

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      The sentences “Nicole has been working hard to improve her grades at school” and “Nicole is working hard to improve her grades at school” have different meanings. Using “has been working” implies she started working hard at some point in the past and continues to do so. Writing “is working hard” means she is currently working hard. When she started is unclear, and it could mean she just began working hard.

  5. Jiten Vyas says:

    It is now very clear where to use had been, have been, and had been. Examples are very good. It makes me easy understand. Thanks.

  6. Conrad says:

    Which is correct?

    This is to certify that Conrad has been an employee of DMCI from 2010 to 2021.

    This is to certify that Conrad had been an employee of DMCI from 2010 to 2021.

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Because the time of employment ended in 2021, you would use “had been.”
      If you were still an employee, you would use “has been.”

  7. Andre says:

    What about when the subject of the sentence isn’t necessarily clear? For example: There have been inconsistencies in the report due to the unreliability of public testimony. Which is best used here, has or have? There has been inconsistencies in the report due to the unreliability of public testimony.

  8. Chi Hin says:

    The actor and actress had been rehearsing their lines for the skit since 8 a.m. this morning.
    or is it
    The actor and actress have been rehearsing their lines for the skit since 8 a.m. this morning.

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Both sentences are grammatically correct depending on the surrounding context. As the post states, where have been suggests a past point in time that remains open and unfinished, had been indicates something that is closed and completed.

  9. Rubule says:

    Can we use the past participle or third form of a verb with has, have, or had been?
    For example, “Reception has been converted to university,” or “Both approvals have been received”?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Yes; however, we recommend rewording the first example:
      “The reception has been relocated to the university.”

  10. Ed Ong says:

    I’ve been to Shangri-La Boracay twice, but this place is also awe-inspiring. I’ve never been here.

    Are both sentences correct?

  11. grace m says:

    Each of you has been such an important part of our lives.

    or

    Each of you have been such an important part of our lives.

    Which is correct?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Our Rule 6 of Pronouns says, “Pronouns that are singular (I, he, she, everyone, everybody, anyone, anybody, no one, nobody, someone, somebody, each, either, neither, etc.) require singular verbs.” Therefore, “has” is correct.

  12. Veronica says:

    It has been predicted that, by 2025, the number of vehicles on the road will have increased by over 100 percent.
    Is the first part of the sentence correct? And if its not, what tense should I use instead?

  13. Rama says:

    Please help me understand which is correct:

    a) My parents are staying in Manila for three months now.
    Or
    b) My parents have been in Manila for three months now.

    Thank you!

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Both sentences are grammatically correct; however, we favor sentence b).

      Your first sentence is an example of the present progressive tense. English uses the present progressive tense for actions that are happening now, that are simultaneous or in continual progress, or that will occur in the future (often soon).

      The second sentence is an example of the present perfect tense. The present perfect is used to communicate occurrences or experiences either completed or not completed in the past with a relation to the present.

      See our posts Present Progressive Tense and Present Perfect Tense for more information.

  14. Aly Geller says:

    “If you or a loved one have been in a car crash…” feels awkward. Is it correct?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      In an “or” construction, the verb would agree with the closest element – in this case, “loved one” (singular):
      “If you or a loved one has been in a car crash…”

  15. jill vickers says:

    Is this sentence correct?
    I have been eating when the doorbell rang.

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      The action in your sentence began and ended in the past. Therefore, “had been” is correct.
      I had been eating when the doorbell rang.

  16. Martina Koroi says:

    Please advise if a purchase order has been processed for accommodation booking request sent a day ago

  17. Nusic says:

    All important questions have been asked, and great answers to them had already been given.

    Any mistakes in the above sentence?
    Thanks!

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Your sentence contains both “have been” (present perfect tense) and “had been” (past perfect tense). Have been suggests a past point in time that remains open and unfinished, and had been indicates something that is closed and completed. We recommend rewriting as follows:
      “All important questions have been asked, and great answers to them have already been given.” or
      “All important questions had been asked, and great answers to them had already been given.”

  18. Nusic says:

    @” GrammarBook.com says:
    January 18, 2023, at 1:55 pm ”

    Thanks again for your response.
    I was also struggling with the same options you proposed.
    Still, I don’t seem to grasp the difference between the two sentences you wrote.
    Could you clarify them (the differences), if any? If there aren’t any, why not?

  19. kelvin says:

    Do we say “Details have been uploaded” or “Details has been uploaded”?

  20. Merve says:

    Is it “It should have been” or “It should has been”? Which one is correct and why? Please let me know. Thank you!

  21. Sharon says:

    How do we use have been or had been in an interrogative sentence?
    How long had the woman been crippled before Jesus healed her? Is that correct? Is there a certain rule in asking a question using have been, has been, or had been?

    Thank you in advance for your reply.

  22. Irina says:

    Which is correct?
    The officer asked when you were in France.
    OR
    The officer asked when had you been to France.
    Direct speech is “When were you in France?”

    Thank you.

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Either version can be correct depending on the context. The first sentence (“…were in France…”) suggests a reference to the past that is more open-ended (i.e., it may have been the recent past or much earlier). Because it uses the past perfect tense, the second sentence indicates a greater sense of closure or finality. It happened in the past and bears little influence on the present. American English would express the sentence as “The officer asked when you had been to France.”

  23. Jaycee says:

    Which is correct?
    For those who have been asking…
    Or
    For those who has been asking…
    Thank you.

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      As the post states, “We would use have been when the sentence subject is I, you, we, or the third-person plural (the children have been studying grammar all morning; they have been studying all morning).” The pronoun “those” is third-person plural; therefore, use “have been.”

  24. Roberta says:

    Which is correct to say of someone who has been kidnapped? The man told the policeman where the girl has been taken, or had been taken?

  25. Juan Cano says:

    It is s my pleasure to inform you that reductions has been signed by the providers.
    Thanks.

  26. duhxdars says:

    How do the two sentences differ in meaning? When should you use each of them?

    1. I have been to 10 countries.
    2. I had been to 10 countries.

    Thank you!

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Your first sentence is present perfect tense. It is used to communicate occurrences or experiences either completed or not completed in the past with a relation to the present. Although it describes a past event, it does not imply a conclusion; something has been done, and it could take place again. The exact time in the past is irrelevant.
      The second sentence is past perfect tense. If we wish to identify an action that occurred prior to another completed action, we use the past perfect tense. The past perfect clarifies for readers that one action finished before another one started. Looking at your example sentence alone, we do not know what other action it preceded. We would not use the past perfect tense if we are not establishing a sequence of events.

  27. Zed ahmad says:

    If we are not sure if the event has been done in the past, would we use past perfect or present perfect?
    Thank you in advance.

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      If you are unsure of when an event occurred, you might consider using the present perfect because its timing is more open-ended as well as closer to the present.
      e.g.
      Present perfect: The table has been set.
      Past perfect: The table had been set.

  28. Bernard hua says:

    Please which of these sentences is correct?
    I was taking my bath when the man came. OR
    I had been taking my bath when the man came.
    Thanks.

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Whether you use the past progressive (“was taking”) or the past perfect progressive (“had been taking”) depends on the distance of time you wish to convey in the past events. If the bath and the man’s arrival were closer in occurrence (e.g., happening at about the same time), you would use “was taking” in the main clause. If you wish to express the actions with a sense of being even further in the past (i.e., provide a greater sense of conclusion or closure in the past), you would use “had been taking.”

  29. Jane says:

    Question:
    Anna and Sarah ________ very supportive to their friend since then.
    a.) have been
    b.) has been
    Thank you in advance!

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      As the post states, “We would use have been when the sentence subject is I, you, we, or the third-person plural (the children have been studying grammar all morning; they have been studying all morning).” The subject of your sentence is third-person plural (Anna, Sarah); therefore, use have been.

  30. Sarah says:

    Which is correct?
    The 2020s have been / has been dominated by a fray and angst due to the pandemic.

  31. KEY says:

    Alpha123 have been assigned and logged in or Alpha123 has been assigned and logged in?

  32. Ghazzzawi says:

    Our restaurant has been qualified to the award, please vote for us.
    or
    Our restaurant had been qualified to the award, please vote for us.
    Thank you.

  33. Sreejila says:

    1.I have been ate that
    2.my mom had been working at Dubai for
    2years
    3.my words have been misconstrued
    Aren’t these all correct?
    Could you please explain?

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Your sentences are missing proper capitalization, punctuation, and spacing. Therefore, they are not grammatically correct. See our Punctuation Rules and Capitalization Rules.

      The first sentence should be written as follows:
      1. I have been eating that.

      Our post Numbers: Words or Numerals? explains that the number two should be written out. Therefore, the second sentence should be rewritten as folllows:
      2. My mom had been working in Dubai for two years.

      The third sentence should be rewritten as follows:
      3. My words have been misconstrued.

  34. Chandu says:

    What is the tense of this sentence?

    I have been waited for 4 hours.
    Why is “waited” used?

    If it is present perfect tense, why is it “been used”?
    If it is present progressive tense, why is “waited” used? We should use “waiting,” right?
    I am very much confused about this.

  35. Jason Cook says:

    I’d like to ask if the grammar used is correct?

    1. Room A had been previously inspected in 1987.
    2. Room A and B had been previously inspected in 1987.

    The inspections were done in the past and completed. Is the use of had been correct for both sentences or should it be ‘have been’ instead of had/has been?

    Many thanks in advance!

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      The context you provide would include either the simple past tense of the passive voice or the past perfect tense.

      If one past action occurred before another past action, the earlier action would be expressed in the past perfect:

      Contrary to what administrators believed (more recent past action), Room A had been previously inspected (earlier past action) in 1987.
      Contrary to what administrators believed, Rooms A and B had been previously inspected in 1987.

      If the sentence refers to just one earlier action, you would express the statement in the simple past of the passive:

      Room A was previously inspected in 1987.
      Rooms A and B were previously inspected in 1987.

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