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I'm wondering what is the difference between the sentences bellow.

  1. Where has he gone?
  2. Where did he go?

The first one means that the subject of the sentence hasn't come back yet, doesn't it? And that is the only one difference?

I would like to consider next examples in order to understand it better. Sentences where taken from translating exercise.

  1. Where did you go? - I went to the library. I'd lost my book there, so I went for it.
  2. Where has he gone? - I think he has gone to the library. He usually goes there on Fridays.

In the first case we used Past Simple in question because the second part is used in the Past Tense. We have two past action. One occured before another one (the second is the result of the first one).

As for the second case, we have action which was performed before. Someone we are talking about hasn't returned, so we use Present Perfect. Are my remarks correct?

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The present perfect involves the present in some way. The present perfect suggests here that the question is about where he is at that moment.

Context may admit the same meaning with simple past, but the present perfect explicitly establishes it and doesn't leave it tacit.

  • Since that it can imply our attitude (interest in) to someone's current location? And what about Vishal's answer (someone has just been here and he is gone now)? Is either correct? Or is your point more reasonable (in the first case someone we are talking to is in front of our eyes whereas in the second one we don't know) in this case? – Anthony Voronkov Apr 29 '17 at 22:48
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    I would not go as far as Vishal does, to say that the simple past indicates that he left the place relatively longer ago. We could easily ask "Where did he go?" of someone who left only a second ago. The present perfect poses the question from the speaker's origo in the present. With the present perfect, there is a vague expression that he who left is still in some way a denizen of the speaker's Present. Context tells us what that way is. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Apr 30 '17 at 13:11
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The difference between them is that they're asking about different statements of fact.

Where did he go? -> He went to... (simple past)
Where has he gone? -> He has gone to... (present perfect)

The present perfect is a present tense, so we're asking about a current status. That could mean that he hasn't come back, but not necessarily! Consider this:

Where has he gone?
He has gone to Rome, Berlin, and Budapest.

Clearly that doesn't mean that he never came back! - only that his current state is that he has been to all of these cities.

Likewise, "He went to the library" doesn't state anything about whether he has come back or not, only that the action of "going to the library" is complete. He might still be at the library, or he might not be. So the question "Where did he go?" is referring only to an action in the past - it doesn't mean either that he has or hasn't returned.

  • I'm sorry if I formed my question in a wrong manner. I would like to know why not to use Perfect in the second sentence. Is "Where has he gone?" some kind of modifier that someone is going in front of our eyes, has just gone (according to Vishal Gupta)? I mean "Where he is at the moment?" (according to the third answer). – Anthony Voronkov Apr 29 '17 at 22:37
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No doubt, the first sentence is of Present Perfect Tense and the second one, Past Indefinite. According to me, the simple explanation is that the former shows recent past and the latter, the deeper one. Where has he gone ? The statement shows that the person has recently left the place. Where did he go ? This statement shows that it has been longer since he left the place.

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