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When should I say "She is gone", and when should I say "She has gone" (and why)?

I think that when I mean "She went away and she's still there", it should be "She has gone". Are there exceptions where it should be "She is gone" ?

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Just say "she's gone"! :-) –  Tomas Sep 16 '11 at 9:02
    
@Tomas yes, that's what I'm doing now. I was just interested how is it in long form –  genesis Sep 16 '11 at 11:39

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

You should normally use be gone if no direction is specified, have gone with directions:

Where is Cleopatra? She is gone. (= she is away, or dead)

Where is Cleopatra? She has gone to the temple.

This is idiom: it is irregular and only applies to very few verbs. And is gone can still be used with specific directions sometimes, though it is probably rare. The opposite has gone without direction doesn't sound wrong, but it is probably less frequent.

I believe to be + past participle was used to form the present perfect for all intransitive verbs in older English, just as in other Germanic languages: not I have been but I am been, etc. So it was once he is gone always, even with specific directions, as in modern Dutch hij is naar huis gegaan. Then at a certain point in time the default auxiliary verb for the present perfect of intransitive verbs changed to have in English; but some old, very frequent expressions stayed in use, like to be gone and some others.

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Shouldn't it be "Where is Cleopatra? She is dead/away." ? –  genesis Sep 11 '11 at 16:18
    
@genesis: You could say "she is gone", and it would mean "she has left", or "she is dead"—something like that. –  Cerberus Sep 11 '11 at 16:20
    
The context is important, so I don't think there's a simple answer right now. –  marw Sep 11 '11 at 22:46
    
@warm: Agreed. If the OP will give us more context, he will get a more specific answer. –  Cerberus Sep 12 '11 at 3:56
    
One small quibble with the answer. There is nothing ungrammatical about using "has gone" even if no direction is specified (although in modern English it is incorrect to say "She is gone to ..."). –  Peter Shor Dec 15 '11 at 13:10

The word gone here is a predicate adjective, meaning "no longer here". Etymologically, it came from the past participle of go, but in modern English it is also an adjective. Like the adjective ready, the adjective gone cannot usually be placed before a noun. Compare:

The car was packed and ready.
*The ready car was parked at the curb, waiting for them.

When they looked in the cave, the treasure was gone.
*They looked everywhere for the gone treasure.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary does have examples where gone is used before a noun, but in most situations, placing gone before the noun is ungrammatical.

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I suppose you could say that; after all, any participle is adjectival. Either description would work. However, I still prefer to analyse it as a participle, because your label would make it more difficult to describe the historical process that caused "she is gone" and "she has gone" to diverge. That is, historically, gone was a participle, and its usage never changed (it is only the auxiliary verb that changed). –  Cerberus Dec 20 '11 at 2:20

Using is gone is a sentence makes it passive tense, as in ''he is gone by someone's pressure'', while using has gone is active tense. I suppose this is the difference.

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