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An expression I have run across in British novels is "gone [hour]" like this:

"It was gone midnight, and the house was quiet." The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston

"It's only just gone eight o'clock, Hugo, and Maria hasn't brought our tea yet." Caribbean Sunset with a Yellow Parrot by Andrea Frazer

I suspected from context that this means sometime past that hour, generally where I might say "after eight" or "past midnight", which is confirmed in this (closed) post. I appreciated the detail that it isn't used for planning purposes.

I am still wondering about some of the nuances of usage. This question has resisted my attempts at regular research, with most searches turning up pages of meanings for "gone" or "o'clock" but nothing much useful for the full idiom (except for the above-linked question here). I actually asked a cabbie about this when I was in England for a few days last year, but he wasn't sure. (It's surprisingly difficult to strike up conversations about English usage with random Londoners, at least for me.) I also haven't figured out a good way to express or look for the idiom generally, since there are at least fourteen common formulations (gone one, gone two, gone noon, etc.) and "gone" by itself is obviously not useful. So:

  1. Is there a limit on how long after the hour you could use "gone"? (I know this is not likely precise, I'm just wondering approximately how it would be understood by those who use the idiom.) For example, if it's 8:50 could you still say "gone eight"? (In comparison, I think I would probably only use "after eight" until 8:29; after that I would say "eight-thirty" or "after eight-thirty" or "almost nine" etc.)

    How much does the addition of "just" narrow down the window?

    Does this depend on hour in question? For example, in the first sentence above are we to infer that the time was sometime between midnight and 1am (or 12:30 or whatever the appropriate cut-off is), or is it less specific, meaning generally late at night?

  2. My guess is that this expression comes from something like "midnight had come and gone"--does anyone know any more about its origins than that?
  3. Are there any situations besides the hours of the day that this usage of gone would be appropriate? For example, "she's gone fourteen weeks pregnant" or "my baby is gone eleven weeks old" or "it was gone summer by the time the plantings were ready"?

Many thanks for any insight, and my apologies if this question is unduly fine-drawn. Obviously, I've been wondering about this a lot!

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The Collins English Dictionary simply defines "gone" in this context as meaning "past". The two are essentially equivalent.

The use of "gone" emphasises that the time is after the one specified, without saying how long after. How long after isn't really important, it's the being after that matters. It's not really possible to pin it down more than that without a specific context.

"Just gone" is still a bit vague, but suggests only a few minutes after the specified time. In this case, the emphasis is on the time difference being small.

6

Gone is used to say, usually imprecisely, that a particular time is now in the past (usually by a matter of minutes/hours).

"It's gone 8 o'clock" means simply that it is now after/past 8.

If it is still a moment within a few minutes of 8 then you would say "It's just gone 8".

It can easily be invested with an elegiac and regretful sense. Absurdly and memorably sent up here.

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    Right. A key point is that you are (usually) emphasizing that the hour in question has "come and gone". (BTW I'm not sure if elegiac has ever been site on the site before!) – Fattie Jun 10 '16 at 12:55
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    @Dan, many thanks for that Spitting Image link. To this day,whenever I hear some say, (e.g.) "It's gone five", I hear John Gielgud saying "Not fivey - gone." – David Garner Jun 17 '16 at 8:28
  • Me too @DavidGarner - ...Strange how potent cheap laughs are...! – Dan Jun 18 '16 at 9:33
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I may have a useful (and/or flawed) perspective on this, having been born English to American parents, then raised from the age of 2 through adulthood in the U.S. immersed in U.S. language and culture, but also watching lots of BBC and ITV imported television on PBS and reading Dick Francis and P.D. James novels; and then having moved back to England and settled here these last 16 years, immersed in English language and culture.

One of the senses of "gone" is a synonym of "past":

3: past <memories of gone summers — John Cheever>

Merriam-Webster

...but in this idiom, you could swap in "after" (when the idiom relates to time) largely without changing the meaning.

1. Is there a limit on how long after the hour you could use "gone"?

If a specific hour is used, it could mean the first half of that hour, or could mean anytime in the hour, even rarely beyond the next hour, depending on the specificity of the sentence as a whole. "It's gone ten before Jim's in bed" is less specific than "It was gone eight before we were served supper." Jim may well frequently go to bed after 10:30 (probably even after 11 sometimes, but not frequently), but I'd be absolutely certain supper was served before 9 and almost certain it was before 8:30 (otherwise the sentence would have been "It was gone half eight before we were served supper," "half eight" being a British idiom for 8:30).

But this is language, and in particular idiom, there are no hard and fast rules.

How much does the addition of "just" narrow down the window?

As far as I've been able to tell, just like "just" in "it was just after eight" in U.S. English.

Does this depend on hour in question?

No.

For example, in the first sentence above are we to infer that the time was sometime between midnight and 1am (or 12:30 or whatever the appropriate cut-off is), or is it less specific, meaning generally late at night?

For context, the example you're referring to is "It was gone midnight, and the house was quiet."

That's fairly lyrical, but it's also about an actual, specific moment (unlike Jim's bedtime). The lyricism would increase the window for me, sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. (no real impression it's likely before 12:30, unlike my supper example earlier). It's probably not after 1 a.m.; if it were, the author would have said.

2. My guess is that this expression comes from something like "midnight had come and gone"--does anyone know any more about its origins than that?

I don't think it's any more complicated than simply that the hour has gone by.

3. Are there any situations besides the hours of the day that this usage of gone would be appropriate? For example, "she's gone fourteen weeks pregnant"

Just barely possible, yes.

or "my baby is gone eleven weeks old"

That specific sentence rings oddly, I don't think it would be used that way. But I could easily see "She's gone eleven weeks old now and gives us a lot of smiles" or "He's easily gone 60" to mean "he" was at least 60 years old.

or "it was gone summer by the time the plantings were ready"?

Absolutely, that's perfect idiomatic use.

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    As a British English speaker I’d find any of the examples in 3 pretty awkward. There’s a phrase of being x weeks gone specifically regardling pregnancy, but that feels like a different usage to the original question. For the baby I’d say my baby is eleven weeks old or my baby is already eleven weeks old. For the summer I’d use past instead of gone. I think the core feeling of gone when talking about hours is a feeling of something running late. It was gone four when they ate lunch more than it was gone twelve when they ate lunch. – Robin Whittleton Jun 10 '16 at 12:01
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    Yes, the three examples are basically "wrong", I'd say – Fattie Jun 10 '16 at 12:54
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    @RobinWhittleton: Seems to me I've heard that last one ("summer") nearly verbatim more than once here. The pregnancy one I initially said "no" to then changed my mind. Re baby, definitely heard things like that here in the midlands; perhaps it's regional. – T.J. Crowder Jun 10 '16 at 14:15
  • @T.J.Crowder I spent about a decade in the Black Country (and I'm visiting Brum as I type) but those examples still sound off to me. For the children's age examples I'd have used 'turned' rather than 'gone'. Maybe it's very localised. – Spagirl Jun 10 '16 at 19:21
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It is common to tell children

It's [gone] well past your bedtime

This simply means the hour which the children should have gone to bed has gone. The expression well past strongly hints that it is significantly later. Consequently, I would not understand gone past eight as meaning, as suggested by the OP, 8.50 pm.

  • Dancing well past midnight, they did not leave until the party broke up at about 2:00 a.m. (1999)

The expression It's gone + hour implies that the hands of the clock have gone past a certain hour. And as many users on EL&U have mentioned several times, the Present Perfect tense is more commonly used in British English than in American English. I think this explains, in part, why the expression is at home in the UK and not in the US. Below are examples with the Present and Past Perfect tense

  • It's gone midday. And — there's visitors calling. (1917)

  • It had gone midday, and a deep peace lay over the riotous mass of colour drooping beneath the hot August sun. (1922)

  • I am paralyzed, especially after hearing tonight that I'm to be sent to Germany. […] I've told Kari in a letter that will go out with this tomorrow, so I haven't much time to waste; it's gone midnight already, ... (1949)

  • Susanne was sleepy and cross. Miladi surely could not know that the clock of Notre-Dame had gone midnight: (1860)

  • It's gone midnight, and the lights in the park have been turned off. In the stillness a guitar rings out clearly, and a girl's voice is heard singing, very low: (1957)

This doesn't mean the idiom, gone + hour, is used exclusively in the Present Perfect tense, but I do believe that is how the idiom was originally used. The auxiliary verb be is frequently used with past participles that are used as adjectives, hence sentences such as: I’ll be gone for about half an hour, she is gone forever, and it was gone midnight are perfectly grammatical.

Interestingly, Oxford Learner's Dictionaries cite for the adjective gone

  1. (British English, informal) having been pregnant for the length of time mentioned
    • She's seven months gone.
    • How far gone are you?
  • Mari-LouA, If I say "It's gone already 8 o'clock", then how does it differ itself from saying "It's gone just 8 o'clock"? – Ahmed Jul 31 '18 at 8:59
  • @IqbalAhmedSiyal "just" is to emphasize how little time, if I say it is "just past 8 o'clock" the listener might infer that the time is anywhere between 8.01 and 08.05. "It's already 8 o'clock" can suggest the idea of someone who is dismayed, upset, worried or (pleasantly) surprised that time has "flown by" only context will clarify. – Mari-Lou A Jul 31 '18 at 9:05
  • Mari-LouA, I took it at all, thanks a bunch. :) – Ahmed Jul 31 '18 at 9:08

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