Choosing the correct phrase can be tricky, especially when words are very similar or expressed in different forms. The terms “began” and “begun” are two such words that can be challenging to master, especially when deciding whether you should say “has just begun” or “has just began.”
The correct phrase is “has just begun.” When using the helping verb “has,” a past participle must follow it to create the present perfect tense. This conveys that something has started but has not ended. “Began” is the simple past tense, which we use to describe an action that has started and finished. In contrast, we do not use “began” with a helping verb.
This article will explore past participles such as “begun” and past tense verb forms such as “began.” We’ll also consider the differences between “began” and “begun” and how to correctly use each word in a sentence.
Meaning of Begin
Before we get into a discussion of “began” or “begun,” we should consider the root word of both, which is “begin.”
“Begin” means to go into or start an action or process (source). Therefore, one must have a starting point to “begin.” “Begin” can also mean that something has arisen. Maybe a problem of some sort has come into existence. Consider the sentences below, which illustrate the word’s meaning.
- The class will begin at 1:00.
- The school year will begin on September 1st.
- Let the games begin!
- Dinner begins at 8 p.m. sharp.
- The issues begin when he doesn’t communicate with me.
Began vs. Begun
“Began” and “begun” are both past tenses that we form from the verb “begin.” Both words mean an action has commenced, but what’s the difference between the two?
“Began” is the simple past tense of “begin” and means something has started and finished.
“Begun” is the past participle form of “begin,” and we use it in the perfect tenses together with the helping verb “have.” If something “has begun,” it has already started but not has yet to finish.
Another example of past tense vs. past participle is eaten or ate. Click here for more information on this.
Simple Past Tense
The simple past tense is a way to describe something that happened in the past, before now. The word “began” is an example of a simple past tense verb. Consider the sentences below, which illustrate the use of “began” in describing a completed action.
- World War II began in 1939 and ended in 1945.
- Our test began at 11 a.m.
- The snow began to fall this morning; the roads are now white.
- Cars began to pile into the drive-in at 7 p.m.
The past tense of any verb will either be regular or irregular. For most verbs, you add either -d or -ed to present tense verbs. Below are a few simple past tense verbs:
- Push → Pushed
- Walk → Walked
- Grab → Grabbed
- Talk →Talked
Irregular past tense verbs do not follow any rules, so you must commit them to memory. “Began” is an example of such an irregular past tense verb. Here are a few more examples of common irregular past tense forms:
- Eat → Ate
- Fall → Fell
- Drink → Drank
- Forget → Forgot
- Drive → Drove
You will use the past participle in the perfect tenses to refer to completed actions. To create these tenses, we use a past participle together with a helping verb. We can also use them to form the passive voice, and they can sometimes function as adjectives (source).
“Begun” is an example of a past participle verb. In order to use a past participle correctly in a sentence, a helping verb must accompany it.
Here are some situations demonstrating how we could use “begun” in a sentence.
- She has begun writing her doctoral thesis.
- He has begun his medical training.
- Now that winter is upon us, the holidays have begun.
- The flowers have begun to bloom.
Regular past participles end with -ed, but there are many irregular ones too, such as “begun.”
Some common irregular past participles would include:
- Be → Been
- Choose → Chosen
- Come → Come
- Drink → Drunk
- Fall → Fallen
- Forget → Forgotten
Past participles do not function on their own but often pair with a helping verb such as “to have” or “to be.” As we previously mentioned, “begun” is an example of a past participle that pairs with “to have” — for instance, when trying to say something “has just begun.”
When Do We Say “Has Just Begun?”
You might also ask what the meaning of “has just begun” is. It simply means that something has recently started, and it hasn’t finished yet. A similar phrase would be “has already begun.” If we say, “it has already begun,” then we mean something that has started before now.
When we use the construction “has begun,” we are using the present perfect tense. English has three simple tenses (present, past, and future) and three perfect tenses (present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect). Let’s consider the verb “to begin” in each of these tenses.
|Present||Lunch begins at 1 p.m. today.|
|Past||Lunch began at 1 p.m. yesterday.|
|Future||Lunch will begin at 1 p.m. tomorrow.|
|Present Perfect||She has begun to write her thesis.|
|Past Perfect||She had begun to write her thesis before she became ill.|
|Future Perfect||She will have begun to write her thesis before Christmas.|
As you can see, we use “begun” in all the perfect tenses together with various forms of the helping verb “to have.” Past participles can only stand on their own when they act as adjectives; as a verb, they need a helping verb.
Meaning of “Just” in “Has Just Begun”
The word “just” is an adverb that commonly expresses time. It can mean now, recently, or soon. When we use “just” in the phrase “has just begun,” we mean “has recently begun,” as in the sentences below.
- At nine months old, Jack has just begun to crawl.
- Sarah has just begun to understand a bit of French.
- Oh no, it has just begun to rain!
- Summer vacation is officially over; school has just begun.
In other contexts, the term “just” can also add emphasis to a statement or describe something that’s the same (source).
- You look just like your dad.
- I just can’t believe it.
- That’s just great; my car battery died on the highway.
All these examples using “has just begun” are in the present perfect tense. You will notice that using the helping verb “to have” means that we will use the present participle “begun” with it.
Doing so will help if you are wondering if it would be correct to say, “has officially began” or “has officially begun.” Similarly, what about “holidays have began” or “holidays have begun”?
In both these cases, we would use “begun” because both contain the helping verb “to have.” “Began” is a simple past tense verb and does not need a helping verb. We would therefore say:
- They will sing the national anthem to show the event has officially begun.
- I feel the holidays have begun when I smell roasting chestnuts.
Let’s explore the role of helping verbs a little further. Their role is to help the main verb in a sentence by extending its meaning and adding detail. Helping verbs are necessary to complete the structure of a sentence, and we can also use them to express time in a sentence (source).
There are two types of helping verbs: auxiliary and modal verbs.
Auxiliary verbs accompany the main verb to show verb tense or add emphasis. One of the most common functions of the auxiliary verb is to establish the action in a sentence to a certain point in time.
The most common auxiliary verbs are “to have,” “to be,” and “to do,” but there are many others. Auxiliary verbs can stand alone, but they give more information about time or mood when they appear with the main verb. For example:
- I have begun to like him.
- He was winning the race before he tripped.
- She has eaten so many donuts!
In these examples, the auxiliary verbs go together with the main verb to create “have begun,” “was winning,” and “has eaten.” They all provide further information about time.
Helping verbs that further modify the action or meaning of the main verb in a sentence to show obligation, possibility, or necessity are modal verbs. These verbs do not change form and include the following:
- Can: I can ride my bike with no hands.
- Could: I could come to see you today.
- Might: I might see the doctor today.
- Will: I will fly home early from my trip.
- Should: You should see a doctor if you feel ill.
- Must: I must see you right away.
- May: May I buy you a coffee this morning?
- Shall: I shall ride my bike to work today.
- Would: I would love to see you tomorrow.
Using “Begin” in Other Tenses
A verb tense indicates when the action takes place. Most verbs have a past, present, or future tense, meaning verbs can change form. You can change the form by simply adding a different ending or changing the spelling (source).
We know that the past tense describes something that has already happened. What about the present and future tense?
Simple present tense verbs are action words that express what is happening currently or something that occurs regularly in the present time. Here are some examples of “begin,” where it operates in the present tense.
- The sky begins to darken as night falls.
- My patience begins to run thin as my kids continue not to listen.
- You might begin to wonder what is going on.
- The teacher begins her lesson today.
Simple future tense verbs describe things that are yet to happen, that will begin and end in the future (source). Here are some examples of “begin” in the future tense.
- The online class will begin on Tuesday.
- He will begin violin lessons next month.
- You will begin to understand if you do your homework.
“Begin” in Different Participle Forms
As there are different verb forms of “begin,” there are also different participle forms.
A present participle is a verb ending with -ing that forms continuous tenses or functions as an adjective. Present participles typically convey current action. The verb “begin” becomes “beginning” when using the present participle form. Consider the examples below.
- The beginning of the school year is fast approaching.
- She is beginning her college applications as the deadline fast approaches.
In the first sentence, the participle functions as an adjective to describe the time in the school year. Sentence number two describes an ongoing action — she is in the process of starting her applications. This article was written for strategiesforparents.com.
Another less common form of the participle is the present participle, which we form by combining the word “having” with the past participle. Perfect participles determine that an action was completed before the action in the sentence’s main clause (source), as in the examples below.
- Having begun the test early, she sat quietly, waiting for her classmates to finish.
- She graduated early, having already begun her postgraduate studies.
It’s essential to know the difference between past tenses and past participles so that we can use them correctly in both spoken and written English. Mastering when to use “begun” vs. “began” will help to clarify this further.
“Begun,” as a past participle, requires assistance from a helping verb. “Began,” as a simple past tense, stands alone to describe something that started in the past.
With some practice, you’ll be able to effortlessly use both “began” and “begun” in fluent English, and you will know that the correct phrase to choose is “has just begun” because the helping verb always accompanies the past participle.