English Grammar: Been vs Gone
Updated: Nov 28, 2020
Contrasting examples - in the context of visiting a place
When using the verbs 'to be' and 'to go' in the present perfect tense, they can both be used to talk about visiting a place. The difference is whether you are talking about a completed past experience ('I have been') or whether you are still there in the place you are visiting ('I have gone').
Here are some contrasting examples:
Have you been to France?
You are asking if this person has ever visited France within their lifetime, once or more times, with no concern for when. They are not in France now.
Have you gone to France?
You are asking if this person is now in France. You have reason to believe they recently travelled to France and so are asking them if that is true.
I have been to the park.
You are saying that at some point you went to the park but that you have now returned. You are no longer in the park.
I have gone to the park.
You are saying that you recently left to go to the park and that you are still in the park now. Perhaps someone at home has called you on the phone and is asking you where you are, why you're not at home. You tell them 'I have gone to the park' because you are still in the park now.
Where have you been?
You are talking to someone who is in front of you, who has just returned from somewhere and you are asking where.
Where have you gone?
You are talking to someone who is not in front of you, so perhaps via telephone or email. They were here a little while ago but now have disappeared and you don't know where they are, so are asking them.
Other uses of 'have been'
You will also often see the phrase 'I have been' in other contexts that don't talk about visiting a place. This is because it still first and foremost comes from the verb 'to be' which is used for many things.
· I have been hungry all day.
· She has always been interested in science.
· I have been a teacher for ten years.
In these above examples, 'been' is being used as a stand-alone verb. It does not mean to visit a place. It simply means 'to be'.
· I have been working all day.
· She has been living here for two years.
· Have you been smoking?
In these above examples, 'been' is being used as an auxiliary verb to assist different verbs such as 'working', 'living' and 'smoking'.
'I have been at/in' vs 'I have been to'
The prepositions 'at' or 'in' can be used with the verb 'to be' in order to talk about a place where you have spent time.
This is different to the original topic of 'been' vs 'gone' because the preposition used is 'at/in' instead of 'to'.
This means that we are not talking about the action of going to a place but instead about the action of spending time there. It is usually used to talk about how long you have spent in that place.
· I have been at the park all day.
· I have been in London for five years.
· She has been at the library all morning.