be, been, being
“To be, or not to be” – Shakespeare said in his play, Hamlet, around 1600.
The words be, been and being belong to the same family but are used differently. They’re like brothers and sisters; they’re in the same family but each does a different job.
(a) Using “be”
“Be” is used to compliment auxiliary verbs like can, will and must.
- Suhaimi will be at home by 5:00 p.m. today.
- You must be very tired after a long day.
- I’ve an old computer that can still be used (by anyone).
The word “be” in all three examples has no specific meaning. It just exists because it compliments can, will and must. Therefore, the following sentences are wrong.
- Suhaimi will at home by 5:00 p.m. today. (X)
- You must very tired after a long day. (X)
- I’ve an old computer that can still used. (X), but
I’ve an old computer that I can still use. (√) – not “used“
Take note: If you see an action verb after the auxiliary verb, then you cannot use “be“.
- Suhaimi will come home by 5:oo p.m. today.
- You must rest after a long day.
- I’ve an old computer that can still function well.
(b) Using “been”
“Been” is used to compliment auxiliary verbs: has, have and had.
- John has been (waiting) here for over an hour.
- The children have been taught (by someone) to respect others.
- If I had been busy, I wouldn’t bother coming here.
The word “been” in both examples also has no specific meaning.
(b) Using “being“
“Being” can be used to replace “to be“. It normally comes after the verbs: is, are, was and were.
- You are being helpful.
- The road was being blocked (by someone), so we can’t get through.
- Who is being blamed for this mistake?
- Was I being rude to you just now?