I would like to ask a question about the proper use of "been to" and "been in" in sentences using present perfect. Currently I'm reading English Grammar in Use (2nd Edition Cambridge Press — Intermediate level). At page 14 here is what we can read:

Note the difference between gone (to) and been (to):

  • Jim is away on holiday. He has gone to Spain. ( = he is there now or on his way there)
  • Jane is back home from holiday now. She has been to Italy. (= she has now come back from Italy)

What I understand from the above example is that when we use gone to a location the person is still in that location or is heading there at the time of speaking.

On the contrary when we use been to a location the person is no more at that location at the time of speaking (now)

Then, at the next chapter there was the following exercise:

Read the situations and write sentences as shown in the example:

  1. Jack is driving a car but he's very nervous and not sure what to do.

    You ask: Have you driven a car before?

    He says: No this is the first time I've driven a car.

  2. Maria is in London. She has just arrived and it's very new for her.

    You ask: ..................................................

    She says: ..................................................

Here is how I answered the 2nd Exercise.

You ask: Have you been in London before?

She says: No this is the first time I've been in London

The reason of my choice was the following:

gone to doesn't seem to be appropriate as it indicates just some movement/motion, a trip to London rather than a long/short stay in London.

Also been to cannot work because if we use it that would mean that Maria is no more in London now and she has come back. I arrive at this conclusion based on the example in the grammar book that I provided above (Jane has come back from Italy)

Therefore I thought using been in London would be the best choice.

However, when I checked the answer at the end of the book, the suggested solution was:

  1. Maria is in London. She has just arrived and it's very new for her.

    You ask: Have you been to London before?

    She says: No, this is the first time I've been to London

I really don't understand the choice of been to here. It has been specified explicitly at the beginning of the exercise: "Maria is in London". So if at the moment of speaking she is in London how it is possible to use been to. Wouldn't been in be more appropriate in this context?

Could you kindly make some clarification on this?

  • 1
    Yes; we'd use 'been to' = 'visited' here; 'been in' would not be 'wrong' but would sound a little unusual. The grammar book is unfair in not adding this perverse usage for 'been to' (one would certainly predict 'come to' or 'been in') before giving you this example. Apr 24, 2014 at 14:32
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    I want to slightly disagree with @Edwin; there's nothing at all unusual about using "been in" in this context (although he's right that "been to" works fine here as well). Apr 24, 2014 at 14:41

1 Answer 1


The been to is referring to the last time she was in London, not the fact that she's here now.


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