I am confused about how to use "is" or "has" in one way or the other.

Is it correct to say " he is gone to the back gate " or it should be "he has gone to the back gate"

because I think "gone is a participle form of "go" so it needs a perfect helping verb like "has " and not "is"


The construction gone to X in your example isn't an adjectival / participle element. That would be the case with something like He is pleased with the gate, He is attached to the gate, etc., but in your case it's a straightforward verb clause using Present Perfect He has gone there as an alternative to Simple Past He went there.

Note that in speech this isn't always obvious, because we routinely contract both has and is to 's (He's gone = He has gone, He's here = He is here).

OP does have a point though. There are a few "fixed expressions" involving the past participle gone that native speakers might sometimes treat as fundamentally "adjectival" rather than being part of a normal verb construction. For example,...

1: The director is gone to lunch.
2: [Some plant] is gone to seed.

I'm not necessarily defending the above usages, but I did find them in Google Books. And it's worth noting that one of the written examples for #2 has the "pseudo-adjectival" element in scare quotes - this is primarily intended to identify gone to seed as a somewhat idiomatic usage that might not be familiar to all readers, but the fact that those words are "set off" in that way makes it at least somewhat more acceptable syntactically to treat them as a "self-contained" adjectival element.

  • "participle element"; It most certainly is still a participle. – eques Sep 14 '18 at 16:06
  • If you like. But I'm trying to draw a distinction between the "adjectival" usage in The tap is running (a running tap is a natural np), and the purely verb-based John is running (but running John isn't a natural np). Where if we cast them into past tense we can choose either John was running or John ran for the second case. But we can only really say The tap was running for the first (The tap ran doesn't work, because it was never a "natural" verb usage in the first place - it was always a participle used adjectivally). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 14 '18 at 16:26
  • A participle is generally considered a word which has verb-like features and adjective-like features and depending on specific uses it might be more adjectival ("the singing man") or verbal ("the man was singing"). The thing you are highlighting is more that some participles of verbs have additional or derived meanings which are strictly adjectival (or at least unnatural to re-cast as verbs). Running with a faucet is one. – eques Sep 14 '18 at 16:26
  • I have no idea where this is going. You seem to accept my basic premise that there is a syntactic difference between "active" verb usages, and those that are more "adjectival". If there's something inaccurate about the precise terminology used in my answer, please feel free to edit and correct it (I have little interest in this kind of terminology as such). Bear in mind that I really don't care whether and why there might be strict principles of grammar debarring my two examples above. The fact of the matter is they did occur in print, and I believe they reflect OP's is / has issue. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 14 '18 at 16:33
  • your imprecise use of terms likely only adds confusion. All of your examples still have participles and in fact many of your "adjectival" uses can also be analyzed as passive verb phrases. – eques Sep 14 '18 at 16:39

"he has gone to the back gate"

This is correct. The more typical use of gone are as the past participle of to go and would be combined with a form of have to make a perfect, which in this case suggests the subject (he) is still in that state (at the back gate).

There are some times were you will see to be gone (e.g. is gone). On its own, to be gone is used to indicate the subject is no longer present (without specifying where it is)

Is Bob around?

No, he is gone.

Additionally, as FumbleFingers points out there are some fixed expressions like "gone to seed" which function more like adjectival phrases.

As a minor aside, historically an intransitive verb (which doesn't have an object to act on) was sometimes used with to be instead of to have for perfect verb forms ("He is come"), but this is not something you will encounter often and not something that should ordinarily be followed in new writing.

  • Perhaps better than the "gone Bob" example: Q: Why can't you drink water from that pond? A: Because it's frozen. Where even the speaker himself might not be sure whether his 's there was contracted from is (adjectival usage) or has (present perfect verb usage). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 14 '18 at 17:42
  • The question was specifically about the word "gone" hence using that and it's a particularly relevant point because unlike most intransitive verbs, there is a quasi-adjectival use (Although only as a predicate adjective, not really as an attributive one). And OP doesn't even talk about contractions. – eques Sep 14 '18 at 18:03
  • I'm guessing the most common "quasi-adjectival" use of gone is in contexts like John is gone = John is dead (not John has left). Just as I "guessed" rightly or wrongly that it's the very fact that we usually do contract both is and has in such contexts that has in part led to OP's confusion. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 14 '18 at 18:06
  • that's just a more euphemistic version of "is gone" meaning "no longer here"; and I think it's not more common that simply not being present. – eques Sep 14 '18 at 18:08
  • Well yes - it's precisely because using gone to mean dead is a euphemistic usage that it's easier for native speakers to think of it as "a different word" that offers different syntactic affordances. I'm pretty sure that's an established principle in linguistic analysis generally (and explains why an artist paints still lifes, not still lives, even though my dumb-ass Google Chrome spellchecker objects to the former! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 14 '18 at 18:13

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