• 3-minute read
  • 21st September 2020

Word Choice: Bean vs. Been

“Bean” and “been” sound the same, so it’s easy to mix up these words. But they mean completely different things. In this post, then, we’ll look at when to use each term so that you can always use the correct one in your writing.

Bean (A Vegetable)

The word “bean” is a noun that usually refers to an edible vegetable. This includes a lot of different beans, but they’re all either seeds or seed pods:

A good chili will contain several kinds of beans.

It can also refer to the plants on which beans grow:

The runner beans are growing quickly this year!

We sometimes use this word for seeds that aren’t technically beans, too, such as coffee beans and cocoa beans. The coffee bean, for instance, is actually the seed from a coffee cherry! But it’s fine to call a coffee bean a “bean” in everyday language (unless you’re talking to a pedantic botanist).

A coffee cherry.
A coffee cherry.
(Photo: Roger Burger/wikimedia)

Been (Past Participle)

“Been” is the past participle of “be.” It is used in place of “be” in the perfect tenses. And it is always accompanied by some variation of “have”:

It has been ten years since I saw them.

We have been working a lot lately.

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I had been waiting for 45 minutes.

In addition, “been” can be a past participle for “travel,” “go,” or “visit”:

Have you been at work all day?

I’ve never been to Paris.

In all cases, though, we use “been” to refer to either actions that were completed in the past (e.g., I have been to New York) or ongoing actions that began in the past (e.g., I have been working here for ten years).

Summary: Bean or Been?

“Bean” and “been” sound similar, but these words have very different uses in practice. Keep the following definitions in mind:

  • Bean usually refers to an edible vegetable or a plant.
  • Been is the past participle of the verb “be.”

If you struggle with these words, it can help to remember that a bean is like a pea, both of which are edible vegetables and spelled with an “ea.” So if you’re referring to a vegetable, the correct spelling will always be “bean.”

Hopefully, this has helped you to spell these words correctly! But to be sure your writing is always error free, don’t forget to get your work proofread.

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