Began vs. Begun: What’s the Difference?

When speaking or writing English, using the past tense can be confusing. There are many types of tenses when referring to events that have already happened. To make matters worse, English contains many irregular verbs that are conjugated in ways that don’t immediately make sense.

This lack of consistency can (and does) lead to quite a few mistakes. One of the easiest mistakes to make is to misuse began and begun, which are two forms of the irregular verb begin.

In spoken English, the two words are often used interchangeably, but in academic and professional writing, knowing the difference between these words is important.

Began vs Begun: What’s the Difference?

What is the difference between began and begun? In this article, I’ll explain the differences between began and begun, use these words in a sentence, and demonstrate how to choose began or begun and use each correctly.

When to Use Began

What does began mean? Began and begun are both conjugations of the irregular verb “to begin,” which means to start or proceed with something.

Began is the simple past tense form of begin. It does not need any helping, or auxiliary verbs, like had.

So, while you might say,

  • Gavin began to open the package.

You would not say,

  • Gavin had began to open the package.

Began is never used with a helping verb.

When to Use Begun

began or begun english helpWhat does begun mean? Begun, meanwhile, is the past participle form of the same verb. It, therefore, should be used with helping verbs.

You could say,

  • Yasmin had begun to eat the cake.

But you wouldn’t say,

  • Yasmin begun to eat the cake.

If you’re using begun, it needs a helping verb in order to be correct.

This brings us to the differences between simple past and past participles. Simple past tense describes things that happened in the past. The sentence “Gavin began to open the package” describes an event that happened in the past. The past participle describes something that happened in the past in conjunction with other events in the past.

“Yasmin had begun to eat the cake” describes one of a sequence of events. For instance, one could say,

  • Yasmin had already begun to eat the cake by the time we sang to her.

Outside Examples of Began and Begun

  • In recent years, it has gone from sort-of moneymaker to money pit: In fiscal 2009-10, BookEnds pocketed $27,897. But revenue began declining after that — from about $20,000 to about $10,000 in fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15. –The Dallas Morning News
  • The operator of the duck boat, Boston Duck Tours, said after the crash that safety was its top priority and that it had begun taking steps to address the concerns. –Houston Chronicle

As you can see, began is not used with a helping verb.

Begun, on the other hand, is always used with a helping verb.

Trick to Remember the Difference

has begun or have begun writing tipsBecause began and begun are so similar, it can be difficult to remember which word is which.

If you find yourself confused, remember that begun rhymes with one, and since begun is a past participle, it needs one more word to go with it: a helping verb.

Summary: Begun vs. Began

Began and begun are two forms of the irregular verb begin.

Began is the simple past conjugation. Began is not used with any helping verb.

Begun is the past participle form. Begun must always have a helping verb to be correct.

If you have trouble deciding which word to use, remember that begun rhymes with one and always needs one helping verb in grammatically correct English.

Being able to use each word accurately when speaking or writing signifies intelligence and professionalism. If you’re having trouble deciding whether to use began or begun, you can always revisit this article as a quick refresher.


The post Began vs. Begun: What’s the Difference? appeared first on Writing Explained.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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