“Begin” is an irregular verb that doesn’t follow the usual rules when looking at the past tense. However, this article will look at the past tense of “begin,” and we’ll try and explain the two main ways that you can use it correctly.
Begun or Began: Which Is Correct?
“Begun” and “began” are both correct. We use “begun” to talk about starting something in the past. It is the simple past tense of “begin.” We use “begun” with a helping verb like “have” to talk about something that had an impact in the past but still impacts the present.
Here are some examples to show you the main differences between the words:
- I began to notice something different about you yesterday.
- We have begun our proceedings to make this the best city in the world.
You’ll want to make sure you remember this information when using this verb form:
When Is “Began” Correct?
We’ll start simple to ease you into the verb forms we might use here.
“Began” is correct when used to talk about “beginning” something in the past. The event has already started and ended, and we often use this verb form to reminisce or think back to certain things that have happened.
“Began” stays the same no matter what pronoun we use with it. The present tense “to begin” changes based on certain verb forms, which is one of the main differences we can highlight between the two tenses.
- Present tense: I begin
- Present tense: She begins
- Past tense: I began
- Present tense: She began
Example Sentences Using “Began”
- We began to see eye to eye after that.
- She began to talk to me about how she felt.
- I began to dance!
- You began to get on my nerves long before that.
- He began to behave better after a short telling off.
- They began to talk more as the evening went on.
“Began” refers to someone starting something in the past and ending it in the past. There are no other activities that we can do to change the outcome of what has already happened.
When Is “Begun” Correct?
“Begun” is a little more tricky if you haven’t already guessed. The perfect tense comes with a lot of extra rules compared to the simple past tense.
“Begun” is not correct on its own. It is only correct when we include an auxiliary verb with it (like “have”). This turns the phrase into “have begun,” which is the present perfect tense and one of three possible perfect tenses we can use.
Like the uniformity of “began,” “begun” also stays the same no matter what tense or pronoun we use. It is not impacted in form like the present tense “begin” would be.
- Past perfect: Had begun
- Present perfect: Have begun
- Future perfect: Will have begun
Instead, “have” is what we change to indicate which perfect tense we’re using.
We’ll explain more about what each one means in the next section. For now, just focus on the tenses we use for “have.”
Naturally, the past tense uses “had,” which is the past tense of the verb “to have.” We do this to show that an event has taken place in the past.
“Have” stays the same in the present tense to talk about something that continues to happen in the present (i.e., it has not finished taking place yet).
“Will” is included with “have” in the future perfect tense because we need to talk about something that “will” happen but has not happened yet.
Example sentences using “Begun”
Since “begun” can come in three different verb tenses, we thought it best to split this section up. We’ll include examples of all the three main groups which you can work with.
- I had begun to deliberate about this before you got here and ruined my train of thought.
- She had begun again since you left, but it still wasn’t enough.
“Had begun” works when talking about starting something in the past and doing that thing before something else happens. We use words like “before” or “since” in this case to talk about what we did first-usually, the events in the past perfect impact the present in some way.
- I have begun the system shutdown, and it should be complete in sixty seconds.
- We have begun a new team, though we still need plenty of teammates to fill it up.
“Have begun” works when talking about starting something at some point in the past. The started thing is still continuing or has just been completed in the present, which is what the present perfect tense indicates.
- I will have begun preparations for the wedding by the end of the week.
- We will have begun to understand each other a little better at some point!
“Will have begun” works to talk about a possible outcome of a situation or event in the future. It usually coincides with an “if” clause to talk about something that might happen based on our present actions.
“Have Begun” Vs. “Have Began”
We’ve made it clear that “have begun” makes sense. It’s the present perfect tense talking about something that started in the past and continues to happen in the present. What about if we used “have began,” though?
“Have began” is incorrect. We cannot use the auxiliary verb “have” with the past tense “began” because it would mean that we’re using two verb forms in a sentence. This contradicts itself, making it an impossible verb formation.
You should refer to the following to help you remember the differences:
- Correct: I have begun to see what you mean about her.
- Incorrect: I have began to understand why I don’t like math!
“Began” is the simple past tense, which makes it easy to use in most sentences. “Begun” requires more thought, as many past participles of irregular verbs do. Remember to include the auxiliary verb because we must use it in the perfect tense if we want it to be correct.
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Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.