Submitted by roland_butter  •  July 2, 2013

have gone to

I’d like to ask your opinion on the following sentence:

“I have gone to X High School since I was fifteen years old.”

A student recently asked me whether or not this sentence was grammatically correct. I said that it sounded correct to me, but I couldn’t answer with confidence.

I understand that, if we are talking about our experiences and completed trips, we use (the past participle) ‘been’ instead of ‘gone’. (For example, ‘I have been to California.’)

But what about ‘go’ in the sense of ‘to attend’? For example:

A: What school do you go to?

B: I go to X High School. I have gone to X High School since I was fifteen years old.

I understand we could phrase it a different way, for example:

“I have been at X High School since I was fifteen.”

or

“I have been going to X High School since I was fifteen.”

But I am specifically interested in the use of ‘have gone’ here. (Not least because there are situations when ‘been at’ might be inappropriate. For example, the below sentence sounds wrong to me:

“I have been at cookery classes since I was a child.”

I think here I would prefer to say:

“I have gone to cookery classes since I was a child.”)

I’ve been thinking about this type of sentence for far too long today, and now I have no idea at all whether it’s correct or not. I tried searching the internet for the answer, but couldn’t find any posts discussing this usage of ‘to go’. I’d very much appreciate your opinions on this matter.

Thank-you in advance!

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As you point out, the verb 'go' has two different past participles - "gone" and "been" - with 'have gone somewhere" meaning that the person is not "here" - "He's gone to the shops", "She's gone to Paris". On the other hand, as you say, "'have been somewhere" suggests a round trip: the person is now "back here" - "He's been to the shops (so we can eat)", "She's been to Paris (and brought back some souvenirs)" - it seems to me that neither of these are appropriate for your example.

Let's look at your cookery classes example. I agree that - “I have been at cookery classes since I was a child.” doesn't seem right; it sounds as though you have spent your whole time there, night and day. But I'm afraid I don't find your alternative - "I have gone to cookery classes since I was a child" any better. As Skeeter Lewis and Daniell have said, this suggests a completed action, when you are really talking about a repeated action, so perfect continuous would be most appropriate - "I've been going to cookery classes since I was a child".

One pointer may lie in "since". With "for" and "since" and "how long" (where the answer would include "for" or "since"), we usually use a perfect continuous, especially when stressing length of time:

"I've been waiting for you for ages" - "I've waited" sounds as though I've finished, "have been waiting" stresses the activity.

"How long have you been learning English?" - "Only since last year."

There are admittedly exceptions: with "live" and "work" we have a choice when we see them as state verbs -"I've lived / been living here since I changed job" - "She has been working / has worked here for twenty years now"

Then there's the complication that you are using the verb "go" to mean "attend", rather than its primary meaning of move in a certain direction. Although "has attended since" appears to be a lot more common than "has been attending since", "attend" really means "go every day", "go regularly", or some such, so when we use "go" here, we are actually talking about a repeated action, hence perfect continuous is the way to go. Here's Swan, in Practical English Usage:

"The present perfect progressive (aka continuous) focuses on the action/situation itself, looking at it as a continuous, extended activity (not necessarily finished. The simple present perfect, on the other hand, looks more at the ideas of completion and present result"

As the other two have suggested, the key appears to lie in your example being about a repeated action.

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I would say that your follow-up example is OK, "always" being an adverb of frequency, so suggesting a repeated action. And in this case, present perfect continuous would sound weird. Although I might qualify it with something like "ever since I was a youngster" or something like that. Some examples from Google Books (edited and proofread)

I have always gone to private schools
I am Catholic and I have always gone to church
I have always gone to my first meetings ... drunk or detoxing.
I have always gone to school in Hillford

And there are plenty of examples from the British National Corpus here - click on the plus sign to see them.

http://www.netspeak.org/#query=I+have+always+go...

Something similar happens with present simple and continuous, but the other way round. We'd normally say "I go to such and such a university" - present simple for general fact or repeated actions. "I'm going to such and such a university" sounds as though I'm just about to leave the house, or that it's only temporary.

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@Hairy Scot - we wouldn't normally use a present simple with 'since', so it would need to be 'I have attended X High School since I was 15', or (I think better) 'I have been attending X High School since I was 15'

Many foreign learners do in fact use the word 'attend' quite a lot, as in 'I attended a meeting yesterday'. Personally, I encourage them to say 'I went to' in ordinary conversation, as I find 'attend' rather formal. And it is marked as such in both Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary and the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, both for the 'go to a meeting sense' and the 'go regularly to' sense.

On the web, 'have been going to high school' gets' 1,320,000 hits, while 'have been attending' gets 237,000 although admittedly 'have attended high school gets 1,060,000', But this includes things like 'could have attended' and similar constructions with 'have gone to high school' get 2,890,000. Add them all up, and the 'go to' versions seem to outnumber the 'attend' versions.

Also, 'have been going to secondary school' gets 19,700 hits as opposed to 9,870 for "have been attending secondary school".

Even in books, 'went to high school' seem to have overtaken 'attended high school' round about the mid-eighties, and something similar seems to be happening in British English with 'secondary school' and 'primary school'.

http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=at...

Just the Word, a collocation finder based on the British National Corpus, finds 1146 incidents of 'go to school', and 376 for 'attend school'. These include all grammatical forms, and variations of school - public school, drama school, night school etc, or just plain school.

http://www.just-the-word.com/main.pl?word=schoo...

What's more, the examples with 'go' nearly all have the 'attend' meaning, rather than simply 'I went to school today':

http://www.just-the-word.com/show_examples.pl?t...^to_PREP

'Attend' is fine on your CV, but phrasal verbs nearly always sound more natural than their formal equivalents in conversational English - IMHO :))

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I.m sure it's all right idiomatically. I think the reason it sounds odd is that 'I have gone' suggests a completed act rather than continuous action.

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In my opinion this sounds false. You are implying a continuous act by using grammar that implies a completed act. I would always say "have been going to". It's also allows for more consistency when explaining grammar to people who are trying to learn English.

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Thank-you all very much for your comments. I particularly appreciate your detailed and considered explanation, Warsaw Will.

The general consensus appears to be that it would be odd to use 'have gone' in the sense I asked about, and that it would be more natural to use a continuous form. I agree and think "have been going to" does sound more natural.

Raymond Murphy says, in 'English Grammar in Use':
"When we ask or say 'how long', the continuous is more usual."
And also:
"You can use either the present perfect continuous or simple with live and work."

Thank-you again for your help. I do appreciate it (I think, to be honest, I thought about this for too long and ended up with jamais vu!)

As a final aside though, I'd like to ask about the case of a sentence such as:

"I have always gone to X High School."

Would it be correct to think that the use of 'have (always) gone' is acceptable in this case (because of the use of 'always')?

(My apologies for bothering you with this follow-up question. I'm just very interested in whether or not we can use the past participle 'gone' with 'have' in the sense of 'to go to school', or whether we will always need to use 'been' in some way.)

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Thank-you very much for your reply! Your comments have been of great help to me in understanding this issue. (Also, I've bookmarked the netspeak site; it seems like it could be very useful!)

It's a difficult language we speak, but I suppose that's what makes it so fascinating sometimes.

Again, thank-you very much for your help!

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@roland_butter - There are also a couple of other useful websites for finding collocations etc. I've written about the here - http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2013/04...

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Thanks! Those look like some great resources (and a very interesting blog too, I might add!)

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Regarding the OP: Why not just use "attended"?

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Hi Hairy Scot. Thank-you for your question. You're right, of course, that using 'attended' would clear up any ambiguities or awkwardness, but the crux of my question was more about the use of 'have gone' than about how best to rephrase my student's example.

The above posters mentioned that the use of a continuous would be more appropriate, which I agree with, but in present perfect section of the textbook I use (Total English -- a Japanese textbook for middle school ESL learners) there are examples such as:
I have played the piano for X years.
I have studied English for X years.

It was in this context that my student asked about the sentence in the original post, and I wanted to check whether or not such a sentence was correct.

Apologies for the lengthy explanation, and sorry if I didn't make the context clear in my original post, but thank-you for the input!

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"I have gone to X school since I was 15" should mean that from the time he was 15 to the present he has made trips to the school. I'd say stay away from it because it is not a very concise or perspicuous idea, unless all your student has done is simple make a journey to the school.
I think it's easier and more accurate to just use the verb attend:
I have been attending X school since I was 15

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@WW

As you have probably gathered from previous discussions I do tend to favour the more formal alternatives.
Probably due to my being a pedantic old fart or perhaps a result of a series of overbearing English masters.

:-))

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Thank-you all very much for your input, and apologies for my taking a while to reply. As I said before, I do see that using 'attend' instead of 'go' would clear up any confusion, but I also agree with Warsaw Will that I find 'go' more natural in everyday conversation.

With regard to your point, Matthaeus, assuming you're referring specifically to the use of the present perfect here (as opposed to that usage of 'go' in general, which I think is fine), then yes, I take your point onboard, and see that the example provided might seem that way to some listeners (I wasn't sure about it in the first place, and that's why I asked!)

Again, thanks all for kindly sharing your views on my question.

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