Began vs. Begun – How to Use Each Correctly
What is the Difference Between Began and Begun?
Began and begun are both different forms of the same verb. Therefore, they have the same definition, but are appropriate in different tenses and grammatical contexts.
Began is the simple past tense form of begin, which means to start.
- It all began one day about ten years ago.
Begun is the past participle form of begin.
- We can’t stop this process once it has begun.
Now, let’s look at the specific ways to use these conjugations of begin, as well as how to avoid common mistakes.
Using Began in a Sentence
When to use began: Began is the simple past tense form of begin. It means to commence or to start.
- You’re late! Dinner began at 7 o’clock and it is now almost 8:30!
- The snow began falling early in the evening last night and had accumulated to over two feet by early this morning.
There are several idioms and expressions that use the word begin. A couple of these, which are listed below, can also occur in the simple past:
- a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step: a big project starts with a small action
- The race to find a cure for the horrible disease began with a single step: the discovery of bacteria.
- to begin to see: to start to understand
- When my sister stole my money I began to see that she had become a criminal.
Began occurs more frequently than begun.
Using Begun in a Sentence
When to use Begun: Begun is the past participle form of begin. It appears after the helping verb have in the perfect tenses.
- You can’t stop the process now. It has already begun.
- By the time the racer realized he had forgotten his shoes, the race had begun.
- Have you begun your homework yet?
There is one proverb that uses begun:
- well begun is half done: if you get a good start to a project, completing the rest of it will be easy
- I know you’re worried about writing a ten-page essay, but you know what they say! Well begun is half done. You’ve already done the research and you’re an expert on the topic. Now all you have to do is write down what you already know.
Between the synonyms begin, start, and commence, start is the most common and commence is the most formal.
Remembering Began vs. Begun
It is possible to use the spelling of these words to remember the meanings.
These words are spelled exactly the same except for the a and the u difference. Usually, when students of English learn the three forms of irregular verbs, they learn in the order of base form, simple past tense form, and past participle form (like go, went, gone). Just as the past tense comes before the past participle form, a comes before u alphabetically.
Alternatively, there are many other irregular verbs that include a stem change from i to a to u from base form to past simple to past participle. Some examples of verbs in that order include swim, swam, swum; drink, drank, drunk; sing, sang, sung; and ring, rang, rung.
- Hundreds of fans began airing their complaints via social media that they had trouble streaming the pre-fight show via Showtime. –New York Post
- They had been waiting out the storm Saturday in Yeselia Castro’s home, but then the waters began pouring in. They tried putting the children on tables and on the bed to keep out of the water. Their brother-in-law, Jesus, even got on the roof. –LA Times
- Both Cabrera and Wilson have begun the appeals process, Ausmus said before Friday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. –USA Today
- The great eclipse migration has begun. And for those hitting the road late, maybe pack a lunch. Oh, and don’t forget some extra gas. You’re probably already too late for eclipse glasses or a place to stay. –Denver Post
Quiz: Begun vs. Began
Instructions: Fill in the blank with the correct word, either begun or began, in the correct form.
- I may not have __________ this fight, but I sure will finish it!
- The play has already _____________ so the theater won’t let the patrons enter.
- The whole rivalry _______________ about 100 years ago.
Should I use began or begun? These two words are both different forms of the past tense of begin. To know which one to use, you must know if you are using the simple past tense or the perfect tense.
- Began should occur in the simple past tense, for actions that completed in the past.
- Begun should occur in the perfect tenses, as the past participle.
Make sure you are aware of this difference when choosing which of these words to use.