What is the meaning of the word been?

Can you use been on it’s own without to have(has been, have been, had been, etc.)

Can you say that been is as same as was?

Why is it past participle, rather than past of be in dictionaries?

What’s the meaning of the word been?

Can’t you just say the word b : "i was there", "did that"

What's the deal with the word been?

Is there a meaning of words of the third form of irregular verbs? The question being because most languages do not have irregular verbs. I personally have no problem understanding, thanks to some answers here I realised this is just third form of irregular verb, which there are many of them.

  • The deal with been is mostly the same as with worked. Ask all these questions for worked, and you have your answers. Been there, done that.
    – oerkelens
    Jul 11, 2014 at 15:46
  • doesn't work all the time, and ye i know it is past of something something, can't quite understand exactly though.
    – user8402
    Jul 11, 2014 at 15:49
  • I'm really sorry, but this does not clarify much. It would help if you would update your question and try to describe clearly what you question is.
    – oerkelens
    Jul 11, 2014 at 15:58
  • 1
    I really don't know what you are asking. For example, "been" is a past participle just like "gone" is the past participle of "go" and not its past simple form. Are you asking us to tell you why "been" is not the form for past simple?
    – fluffy
    Jul 11, 2014 at 15:59
  • 1
    I'm voting to reopen this, because I think the thrust of the question is clear once you realize OP doesn't understand what a past participle is. Jul 11, 2014 at 17:35

2 Answers 2


See our tag wiki on verb forms.

Been is the past participle of the verb BE; it is not the past form were/was and cannot be used as a past form in Standard English.

  • Been is used as a past form in some non-Standard dialects. You will also often hear even highly educated people say what sounds like “I been made blue/lied to/turned down/pushed round and the like”; but this is merely an extreme case of assimilating similar adjacent consonants—it represents I’ve been.

In general, a past participle may be employed

  • as the complement of the verb HAVE in perfect constructions - this is the only use of the past participle been
  • as the complement of the verb BE in passive constructions - but BE is intransitive and cannot support the passive voice, so been is not used this way
  • as an adjective with nouns - but again, because BE is intransitive it cannot support the ordinary passive sense of an adjectival past participle, so been is not used this way, either.

    In theory been could be used as adjective with the sense having existed, but I have never encountered such a use, and I think it would strike any user as very odd.

For the various meanings of BE you may consult a dictionary.

  • I know it's still coupled to to have, but I can't help feeling the doctor/nurse's "Have you been today?" (i.e. - "Have you had a bowel movement?") is slightly different to most other usages. Jul 11, 2014 at 17:07
  • CGEL lists a number of constructions particular to be, one of which is specific to been, which they call motional be: "Have you been to New York?" They don't describe FF's usage and I'm unfamiliar with it―can it be taken as ellipsis, perhaps?
    – user230
    Jul 11, 2014 at 17:14
  • @FumbleFingers I had overlooked the 'meaning' question, but that I think is off-topic. I've added a sentence.See my next comment, too. Jul 11, 2014 at 17:30
  • @snailplane See my previous comment. Yah, I think FF's usage is elliptical, like "Did you go today?" Jul 11, 2014 at 17:31
  • @snailplane, StoneyB: Yeah - that "Have you been today?" is definitely an ellipsis (for been to the toilet, or whatever). It was the standard "euphemistic, circumlocutory" phrasing when I was a kid spending several weeks every year in hospital back in the 60s. These days I only normally encounter it as a facetious usage with heavy stress on the word been to give a clear indication there's something "odd" about the phrasing. Jul 11, 2014 at 17:43

"Been" is, as you say, the past participle of "to be". It is not the same as "was", which is the past tense.

A participle is one of those very common words that's hard to explain. "To be" is another one; because it's used in many places in many (related, but separate) ways, it can be difficult to explain clearly. So your confusion is understandable!

Basically, a participle is a form of a verb, but it's used as a noun (for the action itself that the verb describes) or an adjective (to describe the state of someone/something that is doing the action). There are two participles for each verb: the present and the past.

An example that isn't "to be" might help here. Let's use "to eat":

eating (present participle):
1. (noun) The action you do when you eat. "Eating can be messy."
2. (adj.) The state you're in while you eat. "Can't you see that I'm eating?"

eaten (past participle):
3. (adj.) The state of being something that someone ate. "This apple is half eaten."
4. (adj.) The state you're in after you eat. "I have eaten dinner, but I'm still hungry."

Participles are also used in compound tenses. (In fact, that has happened in examples 2 and 4.) In this role, they always follow another verb, either "to have" or "to be".

You asked whether "been" can ever follow something other than "have" (or its other forms: "had", "having", etc.). The short answer is: no.

The long answer is: yes, in theory, but in practice it almost never happens. All of these are legal English sentences.

The rabbit was tired.
The rabbit was seen.
The rabbit was eaten.
The rabbit was been.

But the last one doesn't make sense. It says that something else was being the rabbit. But the rabbit is the rabbit. Nothing else is.

So while past participles are allowed to follow either "to have" or "to be", it doesn't make sense to put "been" after "to be". So, it only comes after "to have".

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