Easily Confused Words: Bin vs. Been

Bin and been are easily confused words. They are also homophones. This means they sound identical, but they have different meanings, and are spelled differently, too.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Bin (“bihn”) is a noun. It means a container used for storage that has one open side or easily openable side. Bins come in a variety of materials: wood, metal, or plastic, as well as a variety of sizes. A kitchen garbage can or an onion and potato box are examples of bins.

Been (“behn” or UK: “bean”) is a verb, it’s the past tense of be. It is used to indicate a previous version, state of existence, or other condition.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Bebe’s new cat, Barnaby, had been sluggish at the shelter. Once she brought him home though, he darted off to explore every nook and cranny of his new surroundings. A couple hours passed.

She set out some food but it didn’t seem to get his attention. She went looking for him. She found him curled up in an open laundry bin, taking a nap.

This post relates to another post: Easily Confused Words: Been vs. Bean


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