HAVE BEEN, HAS BEEN & HAD BEEN 4 Ways To Use These Words In English Grammar (With Examples)

Lesson summary

Confused by how to use have been, has been and had been in English grammar? In this English lesson you will learn 4 ways to use these words (with examples).

Video transcript

What’s up guys, my name is Shane and today we are talking about had been, have been and has been. Make sure you watch until the end of the video because there will be a quiz to test your understanding.

 

Basics of have been, has been and had been

The first thing we need to do today is talk about the basics of how to use have been, has been and had been with different subjects.

 

Have been and has been are both used in the present perfect tense and they have exactly the same meaning but we just use them with different subjects.

 

We use has been with he, she, it and singular subjects such as ‘the girl’.

 

We use have been with I, you, we, they and plural subjects such as ‘the girls’.

 

Now had been is used when talking in the past tense. We can use had been with any subject – singular or plural. For example, they had been. She had been. The dogs had been. I had been. Easy, right?

 

Okay let’s have a quick revision. Do I say John has been or have been? Has been. Do I say they has been or have been? They have been. Can I say we had been? Yes because remember, ‘had’ goes with all subjects.

 

The second thing you need to know is that after have been, has been or had been, we can only use a past participle or a present participle.

 

Some common past participles are seen, eaten and given.

 

Some common present participles are seeing, eating and giving.

 

Please note that we do not use verb 1 or verb 2 after have been, has been or had been. For example, it’s incorrect to say ‘I have been eat.’

 

Use #1 – Experiences

Okay now let’s talk about the main uses of these words. The first main use of have been, has been and had been is to talk about experiences.

 

For example, I have been to China. This means at sometime in the past, I went to China. We don’t know exactly when I went to China. We just know that some point before now, I went to China.

 

When we use have been or has been, that means the person has gone to the place and then come back. For example, If I say I have been to China, that means I have gone to China and then come back. So now, I am not in China.

 

Now to turn this into a question, we could say Have you ever been to China? The answer is either ‘Yes I have’ or ‘No I haven’t.’

 

Another example could be He has been to that beach many times. Again, we don’t know when it happened but we know that it happened at sometime in the past.

 

Now let’s look at an example with had been. We can use had been to talk about experiences in the past that happened before another point in time in the past.

 

For example, we had been to the market before you took us there. So in this sentence, we are talking about our experience in the past which happened before something else in the past.

 

First, we went to the market at sometime in the past. After that, at sometime in the past, you took us to the market. So we use ‘had been’ here to show that one thing happened before another thing happened in the past.

 

Use #2 – Regrets with ‘had been’

Another very common use of had been is when we use it with the ‘if’ to talk about past regrets. We can’t use have been and has been to talk about past regrets. We only use had been.

 

Let’s look at some examples right now.

 

If I had been there, I would have helped you. What are we talking about here? Past, present or future? We are talking about the past. Did I help you? No. Do I wish that I helped you? Yes I do.

 

So in this sentence, we are saying something didn’t happen in the past but we wish that it did happen. Another example is If he had not been so lazy, he would have passed the test.

 

Again, we are talking about something that did not happen in the past but we wish that it did happen. He was lazy in the past but we wish that he wasn’t lazy and then he would have passed the test.

 

Use #3 – Continuous actions

The third main use of had been, have been and has been is to talk about a continuous action that is not finished. For example, let’s pretend you plan to meet your friend at the park at 3pm. You arrive at 3pm but now it’s 3:30pm and you are still waiting for your friend.

 

So you can say ‘I have been waiting for 30 minutes.’ Or ‘I have been waiting since 3pm.’ We use ‘for’ with specific durations. For example, 30 minutes. And we use ‘since’ with specific start times. For example, since 3pm.

 

So this sentence here is saying that you started waiting at 3pm, in the past, and you are still waiting now in the present. The action is still not finished.

 

Now we can also use these words with adjectives and nouns. For example, we could say she has been a doctor since 2016. Or she has been a doctor for five years. This means she started being a doctor in 2016 and she is still a doctor now. It’s not finished.

 

But if we use had been, we are normally talking about a past situation that finished at sometime in the past.

 

For example, Mary had been working there for 6 months before she got fired. This means Mary started working there in the past. She got fired in the past so now she is no longer working there.

 

Another example could be, how long had he been exercising for when he hurt his shoulder? This means that he hurt his shoulder in the past and he was exercising in the past. During the time he was exercising, in the past, he hurt his shoulder.

 

Use #4 – Passive voice

The fourth and final use of had been, have been and has been is when we want to use the passive voice. What is the passive voice? Well let me give you an example.

 

Let’s pretend you have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow at 10am but your appointment is changed from 10am to 10:30am. The receptionist calls you and she says ‘I have changed your appointment from 10 to 10:30am tomorrow.’

 

This is an active voice sentence.

 

This means the subject is doing something to the object. Now what is the most important thing in this sentence? What is the focus? The focus is the words ‘I have changed.’

 

Why? Because they are the first words of the sentence but in this sentence, the most important thing should be that the appointment has been changed, not who changed it because we don’t really care who changed it. We just want to know that the time has been changed.

 

So how can we do that?

 

Well we can make it into a passive voice sentence and say your appointment has been changed from 10 to 10:30am. You see here how the most important thing is ‘your appointment has been changed.’ This is now the focus of the sentence because it’s at the start of the sentence.

 

Now these two sentence have exactly the same meaning but we have just changed the focus of the sentence. We have changed what is more important in the sentence.

 

Another example could be ‘The apple has been eaten.’ The most important thing here is the apple. We don’t care who ate it. We are just interested in that the apple is gone now because somebody ate it.

 

Now with the first sentence, ‘I have changed your appointment’ is a present perfect sentence. When we have a present perfect sentence, and we want to make it passive, we use have been or has been depending upon the subject.

 

If we have a past perfect sentence, then we use ‘had been’ to make it into a passive voice sentence. An example of a passive sentence with ‘had been’ could be ‘The food had been delivered at that time.’

 

Quiz

Now you have learned about the basics of how to use had been, have been and has been. So let’s have a little quiz to test your understanding.

 

First, I will show you some sentences and I will ask you some questions about those sentences to check your understanding.

 

Number one. They have been to Africa. Are they in Africa now? No they are not. Do we know when they went to Africa? No we do not. We only know that it happened at sometime in the past.

 

Question number two. They had been waiting for 30 minutes when the doctor finally arrived. Are they waiting now? No. Did they wait in the past? Yes. When did the doctor arrive? In the past or 30 minutes after they started waiting.

 

Now I will show you some sentences and I want you to fill in the blanks with either had been, have been or has been. The questions will be on the screen for 5 seconds and then the answers will appear. So pause the video, think about your answers and then play when you’re ready to see the answers.

 

Conclusion

That is the end of the video today! Now you know about how to use had been, has and have been in English grammar.

 

If you’re having problems with English pronunciation, check out our English pronunciation course. This course will teach you how to pronounce every sound of English like a native speaker and it will help you to reduce your accent. You can check it out in the description below.

 

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The second thing you need to know. The fourth and final use of have been, had been.

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