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Home » English Confusions » Been and Gone || What’s the difference?

Been and Gone || What’s the difference?

been vs gone

Did you know “to go” has two past participles, Been and Gone?

So, what’s the difference between Been and gone? 

In English, we use past participles (like been and gone) with the “perfect” forms in English, such as the present perfect, past perfect, future perfect etc. We don’t use the past participles “been” and “gone” for the past simple.

So, with that out of the way, given that “been” and “gone” are two past participles of the same verb “to go”, what’s the difference? 

  • Been = to go somewhere and return. 
  • Gone = to go somewhere and NOT return. 

Of course, either meaning is always relative to the speaker.

Let’s dive deeper!

Let’s see with “been” to help you

Let’s start off with “been” which we use to signify that the speaker has returned from wherever they went.

  • My sister has been to the shop. = She has returned from the shop. 
  • Robert has been to Finland three times. = He has visited Finland three times and now he has returned to his country of origin. 
  • She had been to the library before five o’clock. = She travelled to the library and returned (before five o’clock). Here, we use the past perfect, because we’re talking about a past before the past. The most recent past is “five o’clock”, and the past before the past is “been to the library”. Either way, the person returned from the library at the point of speaking, therefore, we use “been” and not “gone”. 
  • Have you ever been to Japan? = Both speakers cannot be in Japan, because we’re using “been” which assumes they have either travelled to Japan and returned or they have not travelled to Japan at all. 

Now, let’s repeat the previous phrases (while making a few necessary adjustments) using the other past participle of “to go”, “gone” which we use to signify that the speaker has not returned. 

Let’s repeat the previous sentences using “gone” instead of “been”

  • My sister has gone to the shop. = She has travelled to the shop and she still has not returned.  
  • Robert has gone to Finland. = He has visited Finland and he is still in Finland (here, we cannot say “three times” because that would imply that he has returned to his country of origin (not Finland) and therefore, we would need to use “been” instead of “gone”.
  • She had gone to the library before five o’clock. = In this case, for this sentence to be correct, “she” would need to be physically present at the library at the time of speaking. So, she is still at the library. So, given that she has not returned, we use “gone” here and not “been”. 
  • Have you gone to Japan? = The one asking the question is not in Japan while the one who is answering the question is in Japan and has still not returned. Further, we also removed the adverb “ever” because “ever” = “at any time”, and given that we are using “gone” because the person is still in Japan, “at any time” does not make any sense here, hence, the removal of the adverb “ever”. 

Lesson summary of Been and Gone

For those of you who have watched our awesome YouTube lesson on this…

Have you been to the “like” and “subscribe” buttons yet? Well, if you’ve already gone there then that must mean you got some added value from this video. If you still have some doubts, then leave a comment. Happy learning! 

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