What’s the difference between “has been”, “have been” and “had been”?

We recently received an email from one of our email subscribers about “has been”, “have been” and “had been”. As I’ve learned that many people can get confused about how these three phrases are used, I thought I’d briefly explain the main difference between them in this short post.

Without getting too technical about it, there are two major differences. “Had been” is used to mean that something happened in the past and has already ended. “Have been” and “has been” are used to mean that something began in the past and has lasted into the present time.

1. “had been” – something began in the past, lasted for some time, then ended. It is entirely in the past.


  • They had been talking for over an hour before Laila arrived.
  • The children had been excited about the trip to the museum until it was cancelled last month.

2.  “has been” and “have been”– something began in the past and has lasted into the present time, or was just finished not too long ago. 

However, you must use “has” when describing one person (not yourself) or a non-person (e.g. an animal or an object).


  • Anas has been working in this company for more than 10 years. [He is still working here.]
  • She has been notified about the changes in the document.
  • The dog has been barking all night. [It is still night time.]

Use “have” when describing yourself, a group (both human and non-human), or when using “you”.


  • have been looking for my missing earring all morning!
  • The whole team have been so committed in getting the project launched.
  • You have been so busy lately, I’ve barely had the chance to talk to you.

So there you have it. If you’ve been wondering about the difference between the three phrases, I hope you have found this helpful! Let us know in the comments below if you have anything else that you’d like us to write about on our blog.

We’ll talk to you in our next post!