I've never seen "been" been used without have/has/had. But in some songs it appears that they sometime use "been" without have. When I searched on internet the lyrics of some songs, it was actually like "I've been" or "It's been". I always thought that it's not I been, it's I've been but recently I saw the lyrics of the song "Forgot about Dre" in which they use it multiple times as:

  1. ...But I been low key...

  2. ...Sorry Doc but I been crazy...

  3. ...ya'll are the reason Dre ain't been getting no sleep...

The last sentence is quite confusing. ain't been = is not been. Someone told me that we can never use something like is been, e.g "I am been" means that somebody is being me.

Please explain me in simple language, what does I been mean and when is it used. Please do not explain the grammer, that is verb, noun etc; I am learning English without studying formal grammar.

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    I guess that simply for the sake of the rhythm of the verses, an incorrect grammar is in use, but I'm not ready to answer the question.
    – M.A.R.
    Jan 2, 2015 at 18:04
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    I been is never correct in standard English (i.e., the most common rules of English grammar in the U.S., U.K., and most or all other English-speaking countries), but the "have" in "have been" it is sometimes omitted in non-standard slang speech. Also, this use of "been" (without have/has) appears in the English dialect of African American Vernacular English (AAVE).
    – apsillers
    Jan 2, 2015 at 18:25
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    @user31782 Yes, they will understand. (They might also assume you speak a different dialect of English than they do.)
    – apsillers
    Jan 2, 2015 at 18:32
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    If you look up "ain't in a dictionary, you will find that, though considered non standard by many people, it means not only "am not/is not/are not but also has not/have not".
    – Khan
    Jan 2, 2015 at 18:34
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    It was common in the 17th century, but declined steadily into the 19th; I don't think I've ever seen a 20th century use. I suggest you say merely "I am learning English without studying formal grammar". Jan 2, 2015 at 19:31

4 Answers 4

  1. Been is widely used in a number of British and American dialects as an abbreviated form of present perfect have been/has been. In some cases the form is established as a dialect standard, in other cases it represents a severe elision of have been—/v/ and /b/ are pronounced at exactly the same point in the mouth, so it /v/ very readily disappears in the following /b/.

    • Note that been is not used this way in negative statements.
    • Note that in some dialects been is also used as an alternative past form.

    All of these uses are non-standard and should not be emulated by learners in any register, even the most casual speech: speakers of a dialect in which one of these uses is standard may suspect you of mocking their speech. Stick to the standard forms.

  2. Dialects which employ ain't use it for both {is / are / am} not and {have / has} not. Ain't been thus represents haven't been or, as in your example, hasn't been.

  • 1. What does emulated by learners in any register mean? 2. I do not use AAVE dialect to mock anything; I happen to listen hip-hop which has made me use this dialect. I'll try not to use it as far as I could. Thank you for the answer.
    – user31782
    Jan 2, 2015 at 18:50
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    Emulate means imitate or copy. Registers are the various styles of speaking and writing appropriate in various situations and genres. Jan 2, 2015 at 18:53
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    I included that remark because some learners believe that they should strain to imitate the speech of the people they are talking with, and in some cases that is not a good idea. Most teenagers, for instance, resent their parents' and teachers' attempts to use teenage slang. Jan 2, 2015 at 19:00
  • Any chance of a bit of support here? (An answer even? :D) Jan 2, 2015 at 22:05
  • @Araucaria I voted to open; but you yourself are far more competent to answer this than I am. You're a widely-read pro-in-training, I'm just a sporadically-read amateur. Jan 3, 2015 at 0:03

In the podcast "Is Black English a Dialect or a Language?" (part of Slate's "Lexicon Valley" series), presenter Mike Vuolo and linguist Walter Wolfram explain that African-American English has a rich system of verb tense which is different from Standard English.

So, for example, “she been talking” means "she has been talking"; whereas “she BEEN talking”, with stress on the "been", means "she has been talking for a long time and she still is talking".

Similarly, “she talking” means "she is talking”; and “she be talking” means "she is usually talking".

If you're an English-language learner, you wouldn't want to emulate this dialect. It might be perceived that you are trying to parody or criticise those non-Standard language features.

Do check out the podcast and its transcription if you can. The informal, back-and-forth conversational style might be a bit hard going for a non-native speaker. But it changed my mind. I stopped seeing those features of black speech as degenerate or wrong. Though be aware that most speakers of Standard English or other dialects will judge you that way if you write "I been learnin' English on da StackExchange"!


As for "ain't", I might try to address that separately.

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    Oh, I just read StoneyB's answer and its comments more fully, and realised that I also wrote "emulate". Sorry. His phrase "may suspect you of mocking their speech" is better than mine, also.
    – Celery Man
    Jan 3, 2015 at 15:56
  • No need to apologise, I, now know the meaning of emulate. The problem with me is that I do not emulate this dialect rather I do not even now which dialect I use sometimes.(+1 and thank you for your answer, though :-) )
    – user31782
    Jan 3, 2015 at 16:00
  • Is AAVE consider bad!!? I found it a great language and I am very curious to learn it. I live in India(Punjab), and I use "Doabi" dialect of "Punjabi". I can almost understand all other dialects of "Punjabi" as well. Here non-Punjabi's consider Punjabi a cool language. Isn't it good to use a dialect rather than the standard language? I find myself very delightful by knowing and using multiple languages and their dialects.
    – user31782
    Jan 3, 2015 at 16:24
  • I'm not American, so my only exposure to AAVE is through USA TV and music.
    – Celery Man
    Jan 3, 2015 at 16:47
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    It's good to understand, but there are issues of race and class to be careful of, too. Most non-linguists wouldn't recognise AAVE as a distinct language variant with its own rules. Usually we are brought up with language in a prescriptive manner: school teaches you to speak and write "properly", and anyone who doesn't is "uneducated". You may have an advantage coming from somewhere with a diversity of languages and dialects.
    – Celery Man
    Jan 3, 2015 at 17:17

Been there, done that.

Regarding "ain't been": in this case "ain't" is not short for "isn't" but indeed for "haven't".

"Been" on its own actually sounds less wrong than combined with a pronoun. "Been busy, didn't get to it" is sort-of perfectly fine telegraph-style speech whereas "I been busy" sounds like slang. Doesn't save any syllables over "I've been busy" either.


Short answer, no. It's bad practice both formally and informally. You can however contract it. "I've been" is fine.

  • 1
    Reason for downvote please?
    – Evorlor
    Jan 2, 2015 at 23:27
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    I didn't downvote, but you didn't answer the OP's question "Please explain me in simple language, what does I been mean and when is it used." The phrase "I been" is not formally correct, but it is widely understood as an informal abbreviation of "I have been".
    – nnnnnn
    Jan 3, 2015 at 6:31

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