Monthly Archives: August 2013

Been and gone

We’ve only reached the mid-way point of Summer School and already amounted enough material to reflect upon to keep us warm through the onset of Autumn (sorry, is it too early to mention this word?). Something which has emerged prominently in the lessons I’ve been teaching over the past weeks is the distinction between the past participles of the verbs ‘to be’ and ‘go’, so much so that I recently devoted a significant proportion of a lesson I had planned quite differently to addressing the issue.

The problem arises specifically from the fact of ‘go’ having two past participles, namely ‘gone’ and ‘been’, the latter being ‘shared’ with ‘be’. Has this ever come up in one of your classes? There consistently seem to be sections of the students in my lessons which are unaware that ‘go’ can have these two different forms, despite them having studied present perfect tense. I have yet to identify whether it is a difficulty relating to translation, but a significant step forward appeared to have been made by many for whom the distinction had previously been unknown.

To consolidate the difference between the two forms of the same verb, I presented a scenario I thought all could relate to, of answering a telephone call on behalf of someone who was not present at that time (“Sorry, he’s not here, he’s gone to the supermarket”), to illustrate the idea of someone having ‘gone and returned’ (been) somewhere as opposed to having simply ‘gone’ (erm… gone). There was some discussion which followed along the lines of ‘why have we never learnt this before? (in students’ home countries), before everyone undertook a First Certificate Use of English part 4-type task in which one is required to formulate a sentence with identical meaning to a given sentence, but re-worded.

One particular question saw the re-emergence of the ‘been/gone’ dichotomy, as students had to re-express a sentence using present perfect tense and, crucially, to choose which past participle to apply. It was either to be ‘I have been in Italy recently’ or ‘I have gone in Italy recently’, both of which were debated over among supporters of each version, until one student settled the matter by suggesting the importance of the preposition collocation (be + in). I was then able to follow by eliciting the common collocation of ‘in/to’ when describing travel experiences, which can be used to denote whether or not ‘been’ is in fact ‘be’ (be + in) or ‘go’ (go + to). As it turned out, the oft-overlooked significance of such collocations was highlighted through study of an altogether different topic.

Tristan Francis

Director of Studies

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