We all know that

If a person has returned from a place we use "been", but if the person is still absent, we use "gone". (Source)

Example 1:

I've never been to the USA, but I'd love to go!

Example 2:

You realise that a co-worker hasn't been in the office this week. You ask someone about your co-worker and he / she replies: ''Oh, (X) has gone on holiday.'' (The person has gone on holiday, but hasn't returned yet.)

Example 3:

Your co-worker returns and looks suntanned. You say, ''I can see you've been on holiday!'' (You've been on holiday = you went there and then came back.)

So, all these above activities are about travelling.

My question is that

Is the difference between "been" & "gone" used in non-travelling activities?

This website also talks about the difference between "been" & "gone". It has an example

Example 1:

Are you ok? Your skin has gone all red!.

So, what is the difference between "Your skin has gone all red!." (your skin is still red now??) & "Your skin has been all red!." (now your skin is no longer red???)

Example 2:

I'm so tired. I've been working all day.

So, what is the difference between I've been working all day. (I am not working now???) & I've gone working all day. (I am still working now???)

  • Consider: A: Where's Tom? Q: He's not here. He's been on holiday for three weeks now. Tom is still absent; we're using 'been'. Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 11:19
  • 2
    Nobody says "I've gone working all day." Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 11:20
  • Fred has been here, but he's gone.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 12:06

2 Answers 2


I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying about these two words (been and gone), so I’d like to start the discussion all over.

All of the following expressions are possible.

  1. Adam has been (or “has gone”) to France many times. (This expression is possible regardless of where Adam is right now.)

  2. Adam has been at lunch for 40 minutes, so I expect him to return soon.

  3. Adam has gone to lunch, but I expect him back soon.
  4. Adam has been to the bank and he’s home already.
  5. Adam has gone to the bank and returned to work already.

So I think that there are subtle differences in the way we use “been” and “gone” to describe travel, but the difference is not exactly a question of whether the traveler is still at the place he’s been (or gone) to.

Some of the expressions in this discussion sound to me (an American) slightly British; maybe other Americans or British people would disagree with me. It doesn’t sound quite native to me to say “Your skin has gone all red.” If someone told me his feet were still swollen, I might say “How long has that been true? How long have your feet been swollen?” Some change would occur if they were no longer swollen: “His feet had been swollen for two hours when the paramedics arrived.” But I suppose you could say “How many times have your bones been broken,” or “How many times has your temperature been over 101 degrees,” regardless of the current state of things.

So again, it’s not easy to make a simple rule of the complexities of idiom, but it seems that “been” can be used for things still true and for things no longer true.

And finally, “I’ve been working all day” seems more appropriate to me where someone is now working; “I’ve gone working all day” sounds so strange I can’t guess what it means about the present. But I guess that a tired homemaker might post a note on the bedroom door saying “I’ve been working all day [I’m now working and have been all day] and I’ve gone to sleep [it’s a moment later, and I’m no longer working but now sleeping]."

And if people still can’t understand you, just talk louder. That’s what most of us do when we visit foreign places.

  • 1
    I think you're right about your skin has gone all red sounding slightly British; I think AmE speakers (or at least this one) would generally use "gotten" or maybe "turned" in place of "gone" there.
    – 1006a
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 15:11
  • @Tom For better or for worse I wrote my answer without first reading the page you've linked to. Now I've read it, and I guess that I'm disagreeing with that page. So perhaps I should look for some support of my own.
    – Chaim
    Commented Jun 16, 2017 at 15:19
  • Rereading just 3 years later, I notice that although the OP mentioned "been working," expressions like that one or "been broken" employ "been" as a helping verb. The question was mostly about the change in meaning where both 'been' and 'gone' are possible main verbs.
    – Chaim
    Commented Jul 3, 2020 at 18:46

Generally, 'No'. But in certain cases, 'Yes'.

My skin has gone red (recently; it is still red);

My skin has been red (recent past; it is no longer red).

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