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I'm about to work at an English Hagwon in Korea.
Hagwon is the Korean term for a private language school so unique to this nation only.

I received this textbook and on its first page there are some examples of conversations.

One of them goes,

"Where have you been for your last vacation".

The answer is "I have been to Los Angeles".

"What have you done there?"

"I have visited Universal Studio"

I can't quite put my finger on but they don't sound natural. They sound a bit awkward.

I would rather say "Where did you go for your last vacation?" and I would say "Oh I went to Los Angeles" and " I went to Universal Studio".

The previous sentences sound like, "Where have you been all this time ?! We were looking for you!".

What do you think? Do those sentences sound weird to you too? If so, why?

P.S. "Where have you been *for your vacation" sounds a bit ... unfamiliar.
Would "Where have you been *on your vacation" be better ?

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    They are weird. They're in the perfect instead of the simple past. I taught English in Japan for a year. Some of the sentences students had to analyze there were just bizarre.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 2:32
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    Perhaps you'd better choose a different Hagwon, if your aim is to learn English there! Natural phrasing is "What did you do there?" "I visited Universal Studio". Commented May 24, 2015 at 2:32
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    You are quite right. The present perfect is a present tense, so it may not be used, as it is in the book's first question, with time expressions which do not include the present. The second question, and both answers, might be acceptable in other contexts, but not in the context established at the beginning of this conversation. -- Commented May 24, 2015 at 2:38
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    Get rid of that textbook and replace it with one written by someone who actually has a feel for English. Whoever wrote that one couldn't even get their basic facts straight: It's Universal Studios, not Universal Studio.
    – Erik Kowal
    Commented May 24, 2015 at 3:55
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    @PerfectGundam Yes, that's right - your friend can ask you this question during your vacation, but not afterwards. Afterwards, they would use the past tense of "Where did you go on your vacation?" If your vacation is an ongoing process which is currently continuing, the present perfect is appropriate. Commented May 26, 2015 at 8:59

4 Answers 4

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They do sound weird, maybe that's just how Korean grammar is. I suggest if you want to teach proper English, use what you feel is more natural and more commonly used.

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  • I guess I would just have to ignore some incorrect bits of the textbook. The hagwon won't allow me to use any other textbooks.
    – Ascendant
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 0:33
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In some languages the usage of present perfect construction is the same as the English usage of the simple past. That is, present perfect is used for discrete events occurring in the past. German is one of those languages. Based on the example in the OP I suspect Korean is another one of those languages. The textbook authors appear to have failed to understand this tense usage difference between Korean and English.

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The first sentence is not too bad. It seems to confute "Where have you been on vacation?" with "Where did you go for your last vacation?" The first asks for a list of some of of the places the second speaker has traveled. The second asks about a specific event.

It deteriorates after the first sentence. In particular, "What have you done there?" sounds almost accusatory.

The answers are not well phrased either. "I have been to Los Angeles" means that at some point in my life I traveled to Los Angeles. If someone asked me where I went on my last vacation and I did not want to tell them I was in Nevada, I could say without lying outright, "I have been to Hawaii." Would they suspect that it was a deliberate non sequitur? Maybe.

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    "Confute" is the wrong word. Confuse? Conflate?
    – deadrat
    Commented Jun 29, 2015 at 5:23
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Well, I think your first sentence was right that is "Where have you been for your last vacation". It is perfectly fits in the situation along with your answer.

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    Why is the present perfect ("have been") preferable to the simple past (say, "did go")?
    – deadrat
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 7:23

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