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I have seen this a lot in movies. When a man dies, another person goes near him, feels his pulse, and then says in a sad voice: "He's gone".

Is this a contraction of "he is gone", or "he has gone"?

I don't think it makes much sense to use the passive voice with the word "go", nor do I think "he has gone" could mean someone is dead (because it could also mean someone goes to another place and is potentially ambiguous).

  • Nothing "ambiguous" about a corpse. Common sense provides the meaning. Either is gone, or has gone. Both are correct. – Michael Harvey Aug 9 at 16:13
  • It's just that, I've never heard anyone use "he has gone" by a corpse. And I imagine it would be weird to do so. – trisct Aug 9 at 16:15
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    trisct - A corpse is a dead person. Someone saying "he's gone" about an adjacent, recumbent, unconscious person, is saying it about a corpse. Fumblefingers - I might say "He is gone" about a newly dead person. I am British, kind of old-fashioned, and bookish, yes, but still, it means your "no-one would normally say" is not right. – Michael Harvey Aug 9 at 17:05
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    I agree with Michael Harvey, and I'm a not-old-fashioned American. To the extent that I'd never say "he is gone," it's only because I'd use the contraction instead, but I'm certainly 1000 times more likely to say "is gone" than "has gone." – cjl750 Aug 9 at 22:35
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    Putting this into the plural, which sounds more natural, "They've gone" or "They're gone"? I'd definitely say the second. A search on Google Books for, say, "parents are both gone" yields many hits alluding to death, while "parents have both gone" is typically followed by where they've gone (to work, to the store, ...). This could mean death, but then it's made explicit: "parents have both gone on to be with the Lord", for example. – Théophile Aug 10 at 1:00
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"gone", mostly in the form of "He (or she) is gone" or (less often) "he has gone", is a common euphemism for "He is dead" or "he has died". Both may be and often will be contracted to "he's gone" (or she).

This is normally phrased in the passive voice, which omits the cause and agent of death. Often the cause is not known, and even when it is, when the speaker is using an euphemism, the speaker often prefers not to specify the exact cause.

In police procedural novels, and medical thrillers, it is very common for someone to check the pulse and heart action of an injured or ill person and say "he's gone" or "he is gone" in the present tense, meaning that the person has just died. I believe this reflects the actual usage of real medical and police personnel.

This figurative meaning of "gone" should not be confused with more literal meanings, where it indicates actual movement, although it may ultimately be derived from "He has gone to Heaven" or a similar image. "Gone" is less likely to be used for died when the death is not quite recent. Other euphemisms, such as "passed", are in my experience more often used in that situation.

Some people, of course, prefer to avoid any euphemisms, and will say "he died", "he has died", and "he is dead" (depending on the tense of the overall statement). (Of course, "she" can also be used in any of these cases.)

There can be cases where this use of "gone" is ambiguous, but in practical terms, it is almost always quite clear when the speaker means "he is dead".

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