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This was the long way, which had to be gone by us.

There seems to be a great confusion of whether this sentence is correct or not as even native speakers are divided on whether to treat "go" as intransitive or transitive regarding this usage.

I really don't prefer to think of "go" as transitive when it's taking its direct object such as "the long way" or "the long distance", but other than "go", "walk, run, and travel" seem to sound natural taking its direct object such as "the long way" or "the long distance".

So, do you think that sentence makes sense and is grammatically correct?

  • @Cardinal Please, read my question again. There are some native speakers who don't think "go" can be used transitively when it's taking its direct object such as "the long way". To them, the sentence sounds very unnatural and is ungrammatical. But that sentence is made by a native speaker who thinks that sentence sounds natural and is grammatical because this native speaker think "go" can take its direct object such as "the long way". – SinK May 29 at 19:25
  • @Lambie Which sentence are you thinking of as good? – SinK May 29 at 20:04
  • Anyways, my thing was the fact that the moment you use an object, you are using a transitive verb. That was my main point. This: "native speakers who don't think "go" can be used transitively when it's taking its direct object " sounds oxymoron to me. – Cardinal May 29 at 23:40
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Idioms: to have a long way to go, to go the long way [round something, through something, etc.].

SHORT STORY
There was a long way to go before getting to the town. And this was the long way, which had to be gone by us. Because we were determined not to be seen by anybody. END

It is grammatical. However, if it were my writing, I would use:

And this was the long way, which we had to go.

The best grammaticality test is generating other utterances with similar patterns as the one in the same question.

  • There was the main point, which had to be made by us.

to make the main point

  • There was the shortest distance, which had to be traveled by us.

to travel the shortest distance

In conclusion, one can make passives like this. It's pretty clear.

  • There are lots of native speakers who don't think of your last sentence "This was the long way, which we had to go" as grammatical and natural. See this link : quora.com/… – SinK May 29 at 20:12
  • But there is no one who argues that "there was a long way to go" is grammatically incorrect. I guess this is because "to go" is grammatically treated as an adjectival infinitive modifying "a long way". According to this analyzing, "a long way" is not the direct object of "go". – SinK May 29 at 20:13
  • I didn't say "there was a long way to go" is grammatically incorrect. I'm talking about your last sentence. There's no native speakers who think of "there was a long way to go" as unnatural and grammatically incorrect. But just your last sentence makes the issue, because you seem to think of it as natural although there're lots of native speakers thinking of it as very unnatural and ungrammatical. – SinK May 29 at 20:21
  • In the final example, "go" can be changed to "take". – Jasper May 29 at 20:49
  • 1
    I'm not telling you you're wrong, just because there're lots of native speakers thinking of your last sentence as unnatural. I'm just asking why. – SinK May 29 at 21:03
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Short answer: It (eventually) makes sense, and it's probably grammatically correct.

Long answer: It's a terrible sentence that requires multiple readings to comprehend. As you have been told, this passive form of "go", to mean "travel", is rarely (if ever) used. Example:

We went the long way.

is standard, but:

The long way was gone by us.

is weird. The passive "gone" is easily confused with the past participle "gone", as in "missing" or "nonexistent":

All the chocolate is gone! Who took it?

When you say, "the long way was gone," it sounds like someone stole off with it. Alternately, in your example, "had to be gone," suggests the speaker believes the road is missing for some reason. If either is not your intention, you're better off using a different verb that has no ambiguity:

This was the long way, which had to be followed by us (e.g. to avoid the eponymous dangers of the shorter route though Bandit Forest)

There are many other verbs that would work as well: walked, run, traveled, navigated, journeyed, etc.

(Edit) Again, this use of "gone" is grammatical but not recommended. Except, as Lambie says, with creative writing -- but if you are fluent enough in English to write good stories, you really don't need me to tell you that it's a deliberate verbal idiosyncrasy that should be used consistently throughout the narrative.

  • I think your answer seems to be spot-on. Your answer is what I was thinking about to explain why on earth some people are thinking of that sentence as unnatural but others are not. As you answered, "gone" seems causing a confusion in that context because it can be meant for either "non-existent" and "missing" or "traveled". Those who think of it as natural would read "gone" in the context as "traveled" not "non-existent" or "missing". – SinK May 29 at 20:47
  • I would urge you to read my short story. The gone by us is creative and different, but it is not ungrammatical. That way was gone by us would usually be: the way we went – Lambie May 29 at 21:01
  • @Lambie then, could you tell me in what sense you're using "gone" in the context? Does "gone" mean more like "traveled" than "non-existent" or "missing" in the context as Andrew answered ? – SinK May 29 at 21:11
  • We have a long way to travel. A long way was traveled [by us]. We had a long way to go. A long way was gone by us. It's creative, it is not wrong, as per the pattern. We have a big world to see. A big world was seen by us. – Lambie May 29 at 21:20
  • @Lambie I guess that to use "go" and "gone" to mean "travel" and" traveled" seems to be a dialectical thing as there are a lot of native speakers who don't think of this usage of "go" as natural. This is not because they're not less-educated or know little about their languages but because it's not the common use of "go". I just want to hear your opinion on this. – SinK May 29 at 21:27

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