LINGUIST List 11.1646

Thu Jul 27 2000

Disc: Queen's English/American English

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Douglas G. Wilson, Re: 11.1644, Disc: Queen's English/American English
  2. Michael Maxwell, Re: have gone/ am gone 11.1644, (was: Queen's English/American English)

Message 1: Re: 11.1644, Disc: Queen's English/American English

Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000 17:15:44 -0400
From: Douglas G. Wilson <>
Subject: Re: 11.1644, Disc: Queen's English/American English

> Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000 06:14:21 EDT
> From:
> Subject: Re: 11.1624, Disc: Queen's English/American English

> Up through the time of Early Modern English, verbs might have taken one of two
> verbs as temporal auxiliaries: "to have" or "to be." ...

> Richard S. Kaminski

There was also "to become", which is still very current (I think) in
German ("werden").

>From O. W. Robinson, "Old English and Its Closest Relatives"
(Stanford, 1992), p. 170:

<<... the perfect in "have" arises from transitive verbs .... For
intransitive verbs, another periphrasis with the verb 'be' or 'become'
evolved .... The perfect in 'be' remained quite robust throughout the
Old English period, but then gradually gave way to the perfect in
'have,' remaining today only in archaisms like "Christ is risen.">>

But maybe it remains in some other expressions too -- or at least
there is some ambiguity in many cases.

Consider, for "finished":

My house has three bedrooms and a finished attic. [clearly an
adjective I think]

My daughter went to finishing school; now she is finished. [adjective]

My daughter went to finishing school; now she has been
finished. [passive]

I have finished my thesis. [perfect, transitive]

My thesis is complete; I feel good, now that I have
finished. [perfect, intransitive]

My thesis is complete; I feel good, now that I am finished. [perfect,

My thesis is not complete, but I'm too tired to continue; in fact I
feel completely finished. [adjective, as is 'tired' -- IMHO -- but
both passive/participial originally]

- Doug Wilson
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Message 2: Re: have gone/ am gone 11.1644, (was: Queen's English/American English)

Date: Thu, 27 Jul 2000 21:20:02 -0400
From: Michael Maxwell <>
Subject: Re: have gone/ am gone 11.1644, (was: Queen's English/American English)

In Linguist List 11.1624, I posted a query concerning the use of "be" as the
auxiliary verb, rather than "have" with the past participle "gone". I was
going to wait a few more days for responses to come in, but since the topic
seems to have generated a number of responses directly to LL (11.1643 and
11.1644), I guess I ought to summarize what I've received so far, so those
respondents' ideas can be heard as well.

Thanks to the responders: Joost Kremers (, Chris
Beckwith (, Jean-Charles Khalifa
(, Andrew Wilcox (,
and Michael Swan (

One question that came up is why I did not think "gone" was simply an
adjective that only occurs predicatively. What were the tests I had in
mind for adjective-hood which "gone" fails?

One piece of evidence that "gone" is unlike (regular) predicative
adjectives, is that it does not appear after verbs other which take an
adjectival complement, other than "be":

 John acted/became/looked/seemed/sounded *gone/happy/annoyed at us.

This example is modified from Tom Wasow's 1977 paper "Transformations and
the Lexicon", which appeared in the book _Formal Syntax_. One of the verbs
Wasow uses as a test for adjective-hood does, however, allow "gone":

 John remained gone (for several hours).

I would however regard this as weak evidence for adjective-hood, since
"remained" also allows PPs (for example) quite freely, unlike the other
verbs in the above example:

 John remained/*seemed/*acted under the table (for several hours).

Unlike many adjectives, "gone" also does not take the un- prefix:

 unhappy/ unafraid/ untouched/ uninhabited/ *ungone

(I also borrow this test from Wasow, who references Siegel, who in turn
attributes it to Williams. Wasow notes that a certain subclass of verbs
also takes un-, including buckle, fold, lock, tie etc., but since neither
"go" nor "gone" takes un-, this doesn't tell us anything.)

Wasow (referencing McCawley) also notes that (gradable) adjectives take
"very" as a premodifier, but not "very much", while (some) verbs allow the
latter but not the former. In this respect, "gone" does not pattern like an
adjective, although it is not quite clear that it acts like a verb, either
(but not all verbs take "very much", so this is not a strong test for

 *John is very gone.
 ??John is very much gone. (but cf.: John is very much gone from the

Of course not all adjectives take "very" (*the very late senator Kennedy),
so this argument is not airtight.

I could go on, but this is getting longer than I intended. The general
point is that if "gone" is an adjective, it is not like most other

Some people brought out the fact that "gone" is not the only word that falls
into this odd class of past participle-like things allowing "be" instead of
(or in addition to) "have" as an aux verb. "Risen" is another; J.C.
Khalifa gave the example "...the sun was not yet risen...", and of course
there is the Easter greeting "He is risen"--"He is risen indeed".

In LL 11.1644, Robert Kurtz and Michael Swan points out a number of
similar verbs, some of which show an interesting three-way alternation
among an active construction, a passive-like construction, and another

 Have you done your homework? (active)
 Is your homework done? (passive? note the impossibility of a by-phrase)
 Are you done with your homework?

If I had run into the first and third sentences in an "exotic"
language, I would have called the latter an antipassive. I should
however note that not all the words Kurtz and Swan give pattern with
"gone" as non-adjectives, e.g. "grown up" passes most or all of the
adjective tests I gave above.

I find it intriguing that not only are there words like "gone" and
"risen" which seem almost unique in English, but that children acquire
these minor patterns. While there were some respondents who
questioned my acceptability judgements (and one would expect
variability in such corners of the lexicon), there were many others
who agreed with me, and in particular agreed about the unacceptability
of *I am gone to the store. The analogy

 I have gone : I am gone
 I have gone to the store : X

clearly calls out for "I am gone to the store" to be acceptable, yet
it is not (for me and for those who agreed with my judgement).
Except--now that I have written it down, it occurs to me that "I have
gone" (without a destination) is somehow odd. Is it really acceptable
(grammatical), with an UNstressed "have"? Is the contracted "I've
gone" grammatical? Or is there another pattern:

 *I've gone. : I'm gone.
 I _have_ gone. : *I _am_ gone.

(Note that the contracted forms of "is gone" and "has gone" are
identical, so they don't count as evidence. But the second person,
and the first and third persons plural, parallel the first person
singular, it seems to me.) Now I am puzzled!

 Mike Maxwell
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