What structure is this sentence is?

He has been gone four hours now.

If 'gone' is an adjective and the sentence is in present perfect, then how will I know that 'gone' is an adjective. For instance, in this sentence,

"It has been dispatched."

'dispatched' is a past participle and not an adjective.

  • 3
    If the construction been*+*gone represented a verbal use of go it would be a passive (BE + past participle). But GO is an intransitive verb and cannot be cast in the passive voice. Consequently, gone must be an adjective. Apr 29, 2016 at 10:09
  • A very good article about passive, thanks to @snailboat for forwarding me the link. Apr 29, 2016 at 17:02
  • Another good relevant article Apr 30, 2016 at 11:35

1 Answer 1


"Gone" is the past participle of "go" just like "dispatched" is past participle of "dispatch".

Syntactically, "be gone" is does have a structure that looks like the passive of "go", just like "be taken" is the passive of "take", and "be used" is the passive of "use". But "be gone" has no equivalent active voice, and can't be followed by "by someone", unlike true passive voice verbs. It is used as an adjective, and is sometimes called false passive.

"He has been gone" is present perfect tense, so "gone" used as an adjective is in past participle.

"Gone" can be used as an adjective, and so can other verbs in passive voice ("The message is long" / "the message is deleted"). The separation between passive-voice verbs and stative-passive adjectives is intricate, and there is sometimes ambiguity, especially when used in a past tense ("was deleted"). This can be solved by using "get" instead of "is" to unambiguously signal passive voice: "the message got deleted".

See here for more discussion and examples of present perfect passive.

  • As StoneyB says, go is intransitive and can't be passivized, so this explanation isn't quite right. Historically, be was used as a perfect auxiliary similar to have, but the perfect be was very gradually lost (we now say I have come rather than I am come). While it was in the process of disappearing, the verb form gone was reanalyzed as a predicate adjective, and this adjective is still used in English today despite the loss of perfect be gone.
    – user230
    Apr 29, 2016 at 13:42
  • There are exceptions to the "intransitives are never passive" rule. Agree is intransitive, but we have "it is agreed". Likewise we have "it is gone". Apr 29, 2016 at 14:03
  • "It is gone" is passive? Are you kidding me?
    – M.A.R.
    Apr 29, 2016 at 14:08
  • I stand corrected. While the construction "it is gone" (where "gone" is an adjective) is similar in form to the passive voice, it is called stative or false passive. The difference can be seen by the two possible meanings of "the window was broken" - either the passive voice of "someone broke the window", or the adjective describing it state (false passive). Wikipedia incoudes a good discussion of this distinction. I edited the answer above accordingly. Apr 29, 2016 at 21:08

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