Using the verb go in perfect tenses

Remember that the verb go in English can be translated in many different ways e.g. iść, pójść, chodzić, jechać, pojechać, jeździć, wyjechać, etc.

Prepositions

When you use prepositions you can be describing either a static situation, you stay in one place, or a dynamic situation, you move from one place to another. In Polish, you use different prepositions or cases to show the difference.

Static
Jestem w domu przyjaciela. – I’m at a friend’s house.
Jestem nad morzem. – I’m at the seaside.

Dynamic
Idę do domu przyjaciela. – I’m going to a friend’s house.
Pojadę nad morze. – I’m going to the seaside.

This idea of static and dynamic is also important in English, however, there are some important differences between English and Polish in the way we think about static and dynamic.

Using go with the Present Perfect

The verb go is the only verb in English with two different 3rd forms. We use gone to show than only the journey there has been completed, and we use been to show that the journey there and back has been completed.

gone → wyjechać do i zostać
been → pojechać do i wrocić z

Notice that we are talking about a journey and this means that we use a dynamic preposition.

I have been to America. – Byłem w Ameryce. (pojechałem do i wróciłem z)

Michał has gone to America. – Michał wyjechał do Ameryki (i tam został).

In Polish, when you use byłem, you are describing a static past state and not a journey, so you use the static preposition w. In English, using the present perfect with been or gone ALWAYS describes a journey and we use the dynamic preposition to.

If we want to describe a past (static) state in English, we have to use the past simple and we use a past form of the verb be.

Where were you on Saturday? – Gdzie byłeś w sobotę?
I was in America. – Byłem w Ameryce.

We can also use the past simple to describe a (dynamic) journey, but we then use a past form of the verb go.

Where did you go on Saturday? – Gdzie pojechałeś w sobotę?
I went to Warsaw. – Pojechałem do Warszawy.

Remember that in English we have to be careful and think about whether you are describing a state or a journey. In Polish, you can use być to describe a state or a journey.

Have you been to America? – Czy (kiedyś) byłeś w Ameryce?
Yes, I have.. – Tak, byłem. (pojechałem do i wróciłem z)

Where is Michał? – Gdzie jest Michał?
He has gone to America. – Wyjechał do Ameryki (i tam został).

Where were you? – Gdzie byłeś?
I was in America. – Byłem w Ameryce.