Difference Wiki

Have vs. Have Been: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Updated on December 20, 2023
"Have" is a verb used to indicate possession, experience, or necessity, whereas "have been" is a form of the present perfect tense, typically used to express actions or states that started in the past and continue to the present.

Key Differences

"Have" acts as a main verb to show possession or ownership, as in "I have a car." "Have been" is a form of the present perfect tense, combining "have" with the past participle "been," to indicate ongoing states or actions, like in "I have been working here for five years."
In the context of experiences, "have" can be used to describe actions or experiences in one's life, such as "I have visited Paris." "Have been," however, implies a continuity of the experience up to the present, as in "I have been visiting Paris every year."
"Have" is also used to express necessity or obligation, like in "You have to see this movie." In contrast, "have been" does not express necessity but rather a state of being or action in a period leading up to now, as in "I have been studying all morning."
When forming questions or negative statements, "have" can stand alone, as in "Have you eaten?" or "I haven't seen that movie." "Have been" is used similarly in such structures but relates to ongoing or past-to-present actions, like "Have you been waiting long?" or "I haven't been feeling well."
"Have" is versatile, used in various tenses and structures. "Have been," however, is specifically used in the present perfect and present perfect continuous tenses, focusing on actions or states that are connected to the present in some way.

Comparison Chart

Primary Use

To show possession or experience
To indicate ongoing or past-to-present actions or states


Various, depending on context
Present perfect or present perfect continuous

Example in a Sentence

"I have a book."
"I have been reading this book for an hour."

In Negative Statements

"I don't have a book."
"I haven't been reading any book lately."

In Questions

"Do you have a book?"
"Have you been reading any book recently?"

Have and Have Been Definitions


To possess or own something.
I have a new bicycle.

Have Been

To experience a continuous action up to the present.
They have been traveling for a month.


To hold or maintain a belief or opinion.
I have a strong opinion on this matter.

Have Been

To be in a particular state or condition over a period until now.
I have been busy all day.


To be obligated or required to do something.
You have to finish your homework.

Have Been

To undergo a process or change over time until the present.
The weather has been changing rapidly.


To experience or undergo an event or condition.
I have seen that movie.

Have Been

To reside or stay in a place over a time period leading to the present.
She has been living in New York for five years.


To receive or undergo an action.
I have received your email.

Have Been

To be engaged in a certain activity for a duration until now.
We have been working on the project.


To be in possession of
Already had a car.


To possess as a characteristic, quality, or function
Has a beard.
Had a great deal of energy.


Is "have" used in idiomatic expressions?

Yes, like "have a break" or "have a look."

Can "have" express obligations?

Yes, as in "You have to study for your exams."

Can "have" be used in different tenses?

Yes, "have" is used in various tenses like present, past, and perfect.

What is the main function of "have" in a sentence?

"Have" primarily indicates possession, experience, or necessity.

Can "have been" imply completed actions?

Yes, particularly in the context of life experiences.

Is "have" only used as a main verb?

No, "have" can also be an auxiliary verb in perfect tenses.

Is "have been" always continuous?

Mostly, as it often describes actions or states over time.

Can "have been" be used to describe temporary states?

Yes, like "I have been feeling ill."

What does "have been" express in a sentence?

It indicates an ongoing state or action from the past to the present.

Does "have been" always refer to the distant past?

No, it can refer to any time from the immediate past to the distant past, up to the present.

Can "have" indicate past experiences?

Yes, especially in the perfect tense, like "I have traveled."

Is "have" used in phrasal verbs?

Yes, like "have on" (wearing) or "have off" (to take a break).

Is "have" used in questions and negatives?

Yes, in various tenses and structures.

Does "have been" change in the third person?

No, it remains the same for all subjects.

Can "have" indicate temporary possession?

Yes, like "I have the keys right now."

Does "have been" always imply physical presence?

Not always, it can also indicate mental or emotional states.

Can "have been" indicate habitual actions?

Yes, particularly in the context of past habits continuing to the present.

Can "have been" be used with specific time references?

Yes, but the time period usually extends to the present.

Is "have been" used in formal writing?

Yes, it's common in both formal and informal contexts.

Are "have" and "have been" interchangeable?

No, they have different uses and meanings.
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.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons