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Has Been vs. Was: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on November 6, 2023
"Has been" indicates present perfect tense, showing a link between the past and the present, while "was" is in the simple past tense, referring solely to a past event.

Key Differences

"Has been" and "was" are both forms of the verb "to be," but they belong to different tenses. "Has been" is in the present perfect tense, which suggests that an action or state started in the past and continues to the present or has relevance to the present. For example, "He has been working at that company for three years." On the other hand, "was" represents the simple past tense, used to describe actions or states that occurred and finished in the past, like "He was at the party last night."
In terms of structure, "has been" involves the use of an auxiliary verb – "has" or "have" – followed by the past participle "been." This combination indicates a continuing action or state. For instance, "She has been reading for two hours." Conversely, "was" is a standalone verb that doesn’t require an auxiliary. An example would be, "She was tired yesterday."
The use of "has been" typically requires a connection between the past and the present. For instance, "The weather has been rainy," suggests that the rain started in the past and might still be ongoing or just recently stopped. "Was," however, is strictly for events or states in the past, like, "It was rainy yesterday."
Temporal expressions can often determine the choice between "has been" and "was." When mentioning a specific time in the past, like "yesterday" or "last year," "was" is the appropriate choice: "She was ill last week." In cases where no specific time is mentioned or when the action or state has relevance to the present, "has been" is more fitting: "She has been ill recently."
From a nuance perspective, "has been" can sometimes imply a sense of continuity or relevance to the present situation. For instance, "The book has been interesting so far," implies the reader is still engaged with it. "Was," on the other hand, denotes a finished action or state with no immediate connection to now: "The book was interesting."

Comparison Chart


Present Perfect
Simple Past


Indicates continuity or recent completion
Indicates a finished action or state


Requires an auxiliary verb ("has" or "have")
Standalone verb

Temporal Expressions

Often used without specific time mentions
Used with specific past time mentions

Relevance to Present

Has a connection or relevance to the present
No immediate connection to the present

Has Been and Was Definitions

Has Been

Used to describe an action or state that started in the past and may continue into the present.
They have been friends for a long time.


Used to describe a past temporary situation.
I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday.

Has Been

Indicates a duration of an action or state up to the present.
The meeting has been going on for three hours.


Past tense singular form of "be."
She was the best in her class.

Has Been

A combination of "has" or "have" with the past participle "been."
The dog has been barking all night.


Describes past habits or regular actions.
When she was young, she was always climbing trees.

Has Been

A form in present perfect tense indicating past actions with present relevance.
She has been to Paris twice this year.


Indicates a singular subject in the simple past tense.
He was at the store when it happened.

Has Been

Used to express experience or changes over time.
He has been a teacher, a writer, and now a chef.


First and third person singular past indicative of be. See Note at you-uns.

Has Been

One that is no longer famous, popular, successful, or useful.


Inflection of be.
I was castigated and scorned.

Has Been

(pejorative) A person, especially one formerly popular or influential, who continues in their field after their popularity or effectiveness has peaked and is now in decline.


Inflection of be.
It was a really humongous slice of cake.

Has Been

Someone who is no longer popular


Used in phrases with existential there when the semantic subject is (usually third-person) plural.
There was three of them there.


Inflection of be.


Inflection of be


Inflection of be


The first and third persons singular of the verb be, in the indicative mood, preterit (imperfect) tense; as, I was; he was.


Used to indicate a past state or condition.
The sky was clear last night.


Can "has been" be used without a specific time reference?

Yes, "has been" often doesn't require a specific time mention, especially when denoting recent or ongoing actions.

What tense is "has been"?

"Has been" is in the present perfect tense.

When do we use "was"?

"Was" is used to denote actions or states in the simple past tense.

Can "has been" be used for actions that are still ongoing?

Yes, "has been" can indicate actions or states that started in the past and may still be continuing.

Can "was" be used with a future time reference?

No, "was" is used for past actions or states.

Is "was" used for both singular and plural subjects?

"Was" is used for singular subjects, while "were" is for plural.

What comes after "has been" in a sentence?

Often, a verb in its past participle form follows "has been."

Is "was" ever used in the present tense?

No, "was" is strictly for the past tense.

How is "was" different from "were"?

"Was" is used with singular subjects, while "were" is used with plural subjects.

Can "was" be used to describe past habits?

Yes, "was" can describe regular actions or habits in the past.

Does "has been" always indicate an ongoing action?

Not always. It can also denote actions that have recently completed.

How is the structure of "has been" formulated?

"Has been" uses an auxiliary verb ("has" or "have") followed by the past participle "been."

How does "was" relate to "is"?

Both are forms of the verb "to be," but "was" is past tense while "is" is present tense.

Do "has been" and "was" both relate to the verb "to be"?

Yes, both are forms of the verb "to be."

Which verb form is more commonly used in narratives or stories, "has been" or "was"?

"Was" is more commonly used in narratives to describe past events or states.

Which is more relevant to the present, "has been" or "was"?

"Has been" has more relevance to the present than "was."

Can "has been" indicate changes over time?

Yes, "has been" can express changes or experiences over time.

Can "has been" describe experiences?

Yes, "has been" can be used to describe experiences over time.

When talking about specific times in the past, which is more appropriate: "has been" or "was"?

"Was" is more appropriate when mentioning specific times in the past.

Is "has been" only used in positive statements?

No, it can be used in negative statements and questions as well.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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