Commonly Confused Words: Been vs. Gone

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What does each word mean?

Been is the past participle form of the verb to be. For example, 

  • Present tense:
    I am.
    I am at school. 
     
  • Past tense:
    I was
    I was at school. 
     
  • Past participle:
    I have been
    I have been at school. 

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word been.  

Gone is the past participle form of the verb to go. For example, 

  • Present tense:
    I go.
    I go to school.
     
  • Past tense:
    I went
    I went to school.
     
  • Past participle:
    I have gone
    I have gone to school. 

Click here for the full Spellzone dictionary definition of the word gone.  

When describing visiting somewhere, use been if the person is no longer there and gone if the person is still there

Here is been used in more example sentences: 

  • She has been on holiday to Spain before. 
  • Have you ever been to the gym?
  • I have been to hospital three times. 

Here is gone used in more example sentences:  

  • She has gone on holiday to Spain and will be back next week.
  • They have gone to the gym – you can look for them there. 
  • I have gone to the hospital for my appointment. 

 
Where does each word come from? 

Been is the past participle of be, which comes from the Old English ‘beon’ (also ‘beom’ and ‘bion’), meaning ‘to exist’. The Old English comes from the Proto-Germanic ‘biju’ meaning ‘I am’ or ‘I will be’ and which comes from the PIE root ‘bheue-‘.

Gone is the past participle of go, which comes rom the Old English ‘gan’ meaning ‘to walk’, ‘to depart’, or ‘to happen’. ‘Gan' comes from the West Germanic ‘gaian’, from the PIE root ‘ghÄ“-’ meaning ‘to release’.


Are there any tricks to help remember the difference between been and gone?

  • Use the first two letters to connect the verbs to their past participle forms: be is in been and go is in gone
  • Use the last two letters in been to remind you that the visit has ended.
  • Use the first two letters in gone to remind you that the visit is ongoing. 


Where can I learn about more easy-to-confuse words?

You can find a list of all our Commonly Confused Words blog posts here.


11 Nov 2021
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