Confusing English Verbs | BEEN & GONE

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, we’ll take a closer look at the past participle forms of ‘to be’ and ‘to go’ … Because sometimes, they are exactly the same! Look at these examples:
He has been hungry for hours! (verb to be)
He has been to Canada twice. (verb to go)

I want to help you feel more confident when you are using these verbs… So let’s practise!

Video Transcript
Section 1
Hello I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! Welcome back to another lesson about confusing English verbs.

English verbs that are similar. And so sometimes, it’s hard to know which one is the right one to use. So, they might be causing you a few problems. But don’t worry, in this lesson we’re going to help you to fix those problems. We’re going to focus on the verbs ‘been‘ and ‘gone‘. Now I’m sure that you’ve already recognised that these verbs are not in the infinitive form. They’re the past participle forms of the verbs ‘to be‘ and ‘to go‘ which are both irregular verbs.

Now these verbs have a really close relationship in English, though their verb forms don’t really give you any clues about that! Here, you can see them in past tense, in present tense, in past participle form, together. But in English, the verb ‘to go’ has two past participle forms: ‘gone‘ and ‘been‘. The past participle form of ‘be‘ and ‘go‘ can be ‘been‘. And this is usually where the confusion happens.

These two verbs are very often used in similar ways and in similar contexts but sometimes only one of these verbs works. The past participle form of verbs are most commonly used in the perfect tenses, together with the auxiliary verb, have.

So this is where you need to pay close attention to the main verb and be clear about which verb you’re trying to use, ‘to be‘ or ‘to go‘.

Firstly, let’s review ‘been‘ as the past participle of ‘to be

  • He’s been sick for a week.
  • I’ve been exhausted since we got home.
  • Have you been leased with your performance this year?

So we use ‘been‘ to talk about feelings and our health but of course, it can also be followed by the continuous verb form as part of the structure of the present perfect continuous or the past perfect continuous.

They had been waiting at the wrong classroom.

But when we look at been as the past participle of ‘to go‘ well, obviously there are a few questions that we need to ask.

  • Why are there two different forms?
  • Is the meaning different?
  • When should I use ‘gone‘ and when should I use ‘been‘?

The difference in meaning is actually quite simple. ‘Gone‘ tells us that the movement is in one direction, away from a particular place. ‘Been‘ tells us that the movement is in two directions, away from a particular place and then back again. You’ve returned.

  • They’ve gone. They’re not here at the moment.
  • They’ve gone to the supermarket.
  • They’ve been to the supermarket.
    So they’re back home now.
  • Amy’s just gone for a run. She’s not here right now but she’ll be back in half an hour.
  • Amy’s just been for a run. She arrived home about five minutes ago.

The difference between ‘been‘ and ‘gone‘ is simple to explain when you’re talking about holidays.

My sister-in-law lives in Thailand, in Bangkok so I often go there to visit her.
I’ve been there five times already.

Those trips are all complete. They’re in the past.
She hasn’t been to Australia to visit me yet though!

I’m looking for Tom. Has he already gone to Sydney?
He’s already been! He got back yesterday.

Now there’s a little trick to remember here. If the trip is complete then use been, but if the trip is still happening and the person is not here, use gone.

Now in this video, I talked about the present perfect and I explained that the present perfect can be used to talk about life experience to talk about life experience in the past, that is somehow affecting the present moment. So usually, that unfinished action started recently in the past and is still happening in the present. That past action is affecting the present moment. So these grammatical differences can help you when you’re choosing whether to use ‘been‘ or ‘gone‘.

So use ‘been‘ when it’s something that happened in the past. It’s part of your life experience and it’s finished.

  • I’ve been to Spain.

I’m not there now but it is part of my life experience. If it’s about life experience then ‘been‘ is usually the correct choice.

Now ‘gone‘ is the one to use when it’s an unfinished action that started in the past and affects the present moment.

  • My mum has gone to Spain. 

She’s not here now. It’s a past action that is affecting the present and it’s unfinished.

So there are some common mistakes that English learners need to avoid when they’re choosing between ‘been‘ and ‘gone‘. So for you, don’t use ‘gone‘ when you’re talking about yourself.

  • I’ve gone to Japan. 

No I haven’t, because I’m right here, I’m not in Japan.

You also can’t use ‘gone‘ to talk about someone else who is actually with you at the time of speaking. It just doesn’t make any sense. Most of the time, ever and never are used to talk about life experience. So usually, they are used with ‘been‘ instead of ‘gone‘.

  • Have you ever been to Australia?
  • I’ve never been to Russia.


Okay, so are you ready to practise a little with me? You need to choose ‘been‘ or ‘gone‘.

  • Tim has ………. to Melbourne for the weekend. He’ll be back on Monday.

What do you think? Which verb is the correct verb?

(ANSWER) Tim has gone to Melbourne for the weekend. He’ll be back on Monday.

He’s not here right now so he hasn’t returned yet. He’s still there, he’s still in Melbourne.

  • Has your dad ever ………. to India with you?

(ANSWER) Has your dad ever been to India with you?

We’re talking about life experience here, so we would probably choose ‘been‘.

  • Jessica has ………. to the supermarket already. She bought some fruit for our picnic tomorrow.

Which one is it? Been or gone.

(ANSWER) Jessica has been to the supermarket already. She’s bought some fruit for our picnic tomorrow. 

It must be ‘been‘ because we know what she bought so she must have come back from the supermarket and told us.

Okay well I hope that that lesson was useful for you. Just remember that ‘been‘ is used to talk about life experience, about trips and events and things that have happened in the past but are not still happening now. And ‘gone‘ is used to talk about a current trip or event when someone is somewhere else, they haven’t returned yet.

If you enjoyed this lesson, make sure you subscribe to the mmmEnglish Channel just down there. I make a new English lesson every week and if you subscribe you’ll find out as soon as it’s ready for you.

Right now, you should probably check out this lesson right here, about the present perfect so that you can practise what you’ve already learnt in this lesson. Or you can check out some other lessons right here.

Thanks for watching and I’ll see you again next week. Bye for now.

Links mentioned in the video

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