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Do we use "to" or "in" when talking about being to/in another location?

marked as duplicate by tchrist, choster, michael_timofeev, user140086, Mitch Dec 28 '15 at 15:02

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    This involves a basic understanding of prepositions, and you may find that English Language, Learners is a better site on which to post a question such as this. – WS2 Dec 27 '15 at 23:15
  • If it's a location on a route, use "to", otherwise "in". – Greg Lee Dec 27 '15 at 23:42
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    Both work, in slightly different situations. – Hot Licks Dec 27 '15 at 23:43
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    @WS2 Actually, I'm not sure that's why. I think it's because been can be the past participle of either GO or BE. The verb GO takes prepositional phrases often beginning with to. The verb BE doesn't take PPs headed by to. The preposition thingie is a red herring - which shows that the question is more interesting than it looks, even for native speakers :) [It's a BE versus GO issue] – Araucaria Dec 28 '15 at 0:02
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    Related question, Difference between “been to” and “been in”. – user140086 Dec 28 '15 at 2:54

Before this question is closed, I'd like to answer your question because it's an easy one to explain and often asked by English language learners who often find themselves on this site. But yes, as per WS2's comment, this is better suited for ELL.

Say: I am in France. (If you are actually in France)

Don't say: I am to France >:-(

Say: I am going to France.

Don't say: I am going in France :-(

Say: I have been to France.

Don't say: I have been in France. (If you mean you visited France once)

Say: I have been in France. (If you mean you are still in France or still living in France)

This is confusing because we say:

Have you been in the new mall they just built? (Meaning: Have you been inside the mall)

No, I haven't been in there yet.

A lot of the confusion is because you can use in when you are actually inside a building or an area (like a stadium), but we use to when the place is a destination or a country. If you are being very literal, sometime we use in.

Have you ever been to France?

Sort of. I flew over it once.

Yes, but have you ever been in France?

We do say:

I am in France right now.

I have been in France since Tuesday.

But in the past we say:

I was in France last week.

I have been to France before.

I went to France last week.

EDIT: Changed the answer to reflect the comments below.

EDIT: Before people start reading me the riot act about my defense of not saying "have been in" a place, here's my research: The Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) has 5119 entries for "have been in". None of which I've found so far mean "visited". The grammar has always been an acceptable way to express that sb. was or still is or continuously is in some place or is literally inside a place/building/area. I did also check the British National Corpus (BNC) to see if this was a British/American difference. There are 1289 entries there and I'm about halfway through with no indication that "have been in" is used in the way the commenters below propose for "visit". This is what I'm basing my answer on.

That being said, the incidence according to Google NGrams points to the fact that "have been in" as a phrase is more widely used in literature than "have been to" (Google NGrams). Here's a Q&A from pearsonlongman.com that indicates it's a contextual difference, which I've stated all along.

Perhaps my aversion is simply due to my particular brand of English, so if there are other resources, please post. As with many of these questions, it's a prescriptive versus descriptive approach to grammar. In my opinion, if you say it and people understand you, it's usable.

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    There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying "I have been in France", and for some scenarios it would be the ideal phrasing. Using "in" rather than "to" implies that you have spent some time there -- not simply passing from airport to cruise ship. – Hot Licks Dec 27 '15 at 23:56
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    I've been in France. I was in France for many years. I've eaten pastries in France too. I've never gone in France, but I've been very happy in France. I've been a managing director in France. But I haven't ever gone in France. I think that's the OP's problem. – Araucaria Dec 28 '15 at 0:09
  • @HotLicks, Here's where I think we're getting caught up: your point is that if someone were to say: "I've been in France a long time now." That this is perfectly acceptable. I agree with you. The reason I posted not to say, "I've been in France." is because for language learners, they will often say, "I have been in France" to mean that they merely visited once. I'll edit my answer to reflect the difference. I do disagree that "I have been in France" connotes that you have lived there. Perhaps that's opinion only, but I'd like to see it in context if you think it's possible. – Adam Dec 28 '15 at 0:55
  • @Adam - I'm imagining a scenario where someone says "In France they always do X", and you reply "Well I've been in France and what I've seen is that they do Y." – Hot Licks Dec 28 '15 at 1:35
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    @Araucaria Yes, another good point. There have been various posts on this subject on the site including this one: english.stackexchange.com/questions/156053/… – WS2 Dec 28 '15 at 11:52

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