I Worked vs. I Was Working vs. I Have Been Working (With Examples)

Tenses and verb forms come up frequently in English. It can make it challenging when you’re trying to learn new ideas and are met with many varying writing options. This article will explore the most appropriate verb tenses to use and how they work in a sentence.

What Is The Difference Between “I Worked,” “I Was Working,” And “I Have Been Working”?

“I worked” is the past simple tense, meaning you worked in the past. “I was working” is the past continuous tense, meaning you worked in the past but stopped for some reason. “I have been working” is the present perfect tense, meaning you started work and you are still working.

What Is The Difference Between "I Worked," "I Was Working," And "I Have Been Working"?

The definition of “worked,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is”to do a job, especially the job you do to earn money.” You probably already knew the meaning, but we wanted to draw attention to it as a verb.

With a verb, we can encounter many forms. This is precisely what most of this article will explain to you. “To work” is the root form of the verb, while “worked” is the past tense, and “working” is the present participle.

Using those verb forms is important if we want to convey the correct meaning to our sentences. Rather than just assuming you already know which one works well, we’ll talk you through exactly when to use them all.

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Is “I Worked,” “I Was Working,” Or “I Have Been Working” Used The Most?

To help you understand them slightly better, we want to share some statistics with you. From there, you’ll be able to see which one is the most popular one (and, therefore, the most common to come across when speaking with native English users).

According to this graph, “I worked” is the most common choice. “I was working” is the second most common, and “I have been working” is the least common.

Is "I Worked," "I Was Working," Or "I Have Been Working" Used The Most?

We might use “I worked” more often than the others because it always talks about completing the work activity in the past. It’s just something that we use to define our workday as completed, which is often the only time we’ll use the verb “to work.”

Of course, the past perfect tense, “I was working,” gets used sometimes when talking about the event that happened in the past and ended in the past. Usually, in this case, we’re talking about our workday ending abruptly or for some other reason.

Finally, the present perfect tense is less common because we don’t often write with it. It’s more common to say “I have been working,” which isn’t recorded by this graph. Native speakers still frequently use “I have been working” to talk about the work they’re still doing.

Can “I Worked,” “I Was Working,” Or “I Have Been Working” Ever Be Used Interchangeably?

The three phrases are not interchangeable with each other. Each one is used in a slightly different manner. However, “I worked” and “I was working” are generally allowed to work interchangeably.

“I have been working” is the anomaly here. It doesn’t work in place of either of the other two. You have to make sure you’re using the right tense when you write “I have been working;” otherwise, you’ll end up creating a sentence tense that doesn’t make any sense.

“I worked” and “I was working” both talk about beginning the activity of “work” in the past. They also both imply that your work activity has finished in the past as well, which is why so many native speakers use them synonymously.

Examples Of How To Use “I Worked” In A Sentence

To help you understand how all of the phrases work, we’ll run you through some examples of each. That way, you’ll hopefully start to work out when the tenses work for each one, and you can start to use them all yourself with no trouble.

“I worked” is the past simple tense. It’s one of the most straightforward tenses to use because it refers to something we did in the past.

  1. I worked on the weekend and didn’t have fun.
  2. I worked for my boss all day yesterday.
  3. I worked there for about fifteen years before I quit.
  4. I worked hard to get to where I am today.
  5. I worked out hard yesterday!
  6. I worked for you because I believed in what you did.
  7. I worked out how to solve the problem.

The verb “to work” doesn’t only have to talk about working at a job. You’ll see in the last few examples that we’re also talking about other situations where the verb “to work” makes sense.

Examples Of How To Use “I Was Working” In A Sentence

“I was working” is the past perfect tense. It’s most similar to the past simple tense and refers to an action we completed in the past, which was typically interrupted by something, so we are no longer doing it.

  1. I was working yesterday until my phone went off and called me away.
  2. I was working when you called me, what’s the matter?
  3. I was working for him all day!
  4. I was working yesterday, so I didn’t notice anything wrong.
  5. I was working out alone in the gym.
  6. I was working hard to make sure that never happened again, but I couldn’t find a way to do it.
  7. I was working quickly to get it all finished, but I still ran out of time.

Generally, “I was working” is synonymous with “I worked.” However, to make it more specific, we typically want to include a context where something abruptly happens that might have led to us stopping the “work” that we were doing.

Examples Of How To Use “I Have Been Working” In A Sentence

“I have been working” is the present perfect tense. It is unrelated to the other two phrases because it talks about starting work in the past but continuing to work (or talking about work) in the present.

  1. I have been working for eight hours already!
  2. I have been working all week; I just need a rest!
  3. I have been working for as long as I can remember.
  4. I have been working all through the night; I’m exhausted.
  5. I have been working all day. Let me rest.
  6. I have been working out hard over the last three months.
  7. I have been working hard to figure this out, but I can’t seem to get it right.

“I have been working” talks about something in the present, even if that thing happened in the past. We’re treating it as if it’s something we can still change or impact in the present time.

Is It Ever Correct To Use “I Have Worked” And “I Had Worked”?

There are two more tense forms to talk about with “worked,” and that is “I have worked” and “I had worked.”

“I have worked” is the present perfect simple form. We use it to talk about a place we have been working at that we still work at. “I had worked” is the past perfect simple form. We use it to talk about a place we’ve worked previously but have since moved on to a new place.

  • I have worked at my company for three years.
  • I had worked there for two years, but I’ve moved on now.

When Should I Use “Have Worked” Vs. “Has Worked”?

The verb form of “have” is also important to pay attention to when writing in these forms. Just like “worked,” “have” is a verb that comes in many forms.

We use “have worked” when writing in the first-person singular (I), second-person singular (you), or plural forms (we, they). We use “has worked” when writing in the third-person singular forms (he, she, or it).

That’s the major difference between the two. “Have” is an auxiliary verb (or helping verb). We use it to introduce the verb “to work” correctly into the sentence, and it’s essential we make sure we have the right verb form when we include it.

  • I have worked there all my life.
  • He has worked there for years.
  • They have worked there for far too long.
  • She has worked there non-stop for ages.

Is It Ever Correct To Use “I Was Worked”?

“I was worked” is incorrect to use when talking about a job or place of previous employment. “Was” is the wrong auxiliary verb to use alongside “work” in this sense. We must stick to using “was working” or “have worked.”

There are exceptions where “was” works, but it’s not related to a job or employment of any kind.

  • I was worked hard by my trainer.

“Was worked” is only correct when we’re talking about somebody “working” us. In this sense, “work” means “to shape, change, or process a person.”

Should I Use “I Worked,” “I Was Working,” Or “I Have Been Working” At A Company?

You should use “I worked at a company” if you no longer work there now. You should use “I was working at a company” if you don’t work for them anymore and give a valid reason. You should use “I have been working at a company” if you still work for the company.

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