have gone vs. have been [are they the same?]

I am frequently asked, “what is the difference between have gone and have been?” It seems that there shouldn’t be any confusion, but these two words are close enough in meaning that they are often used interchangeably, even by native English speakers.

But Generally speaking, when we say, “He has gone to New York,” we mean he has left and is in New York now.  When we say, “He has been to New York,” we mean he went to New York and he is back now. He is no longer in New York.

More or less, when we use have been, we are referring to the experience of “being somewhere”. And when we use have gone, we are simply giving information.

Look at the following sentences:

  • She won’t be here tomorrow because she has gone on a business trip.
  • He has been to Hawaii twice, but he hasn’t been to China yet.
  • John has already gone to work, but he hasn’t been to the bank yet.
  • Where has David gone? (Meaning he is not here now).
  • Where have you been? (Meaning you are here now, but you went somewhere).

Richard Carrigan, MSE

Richard Carrigan has been an educator for over 30 years and a filmmaker for the past ten years. He has experience teaching English as a Second Language in Asia and teaching university students in the United States. He earned his undergraduate degree from Loma Linda University and his graduate degree from Shenandoah University.