in BrE it is normal to say e.g.:

"She's been to Africa twice."

In the past simple, the preposition would be "in":

"She was in Africa twice."

Question 1: Why is there such a difference?

Question 2: Does American English use the preposition "to" with places in present perfect, too?

Question 3: What changes if I say "I've been in Africa twice." instead?


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    The confusion stems from the fact that been is the past participle of two verbs - be and go. Go collocates with to, whereas be collocates with in. When you say you are changing tenses, you are actually changing verbs - that is why the preposition changes. – user339660 May 2 at 19:22
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    It might be clearer if I give some examples - she's been to Africa twice would become she went to Africa twice in the past simple. Here the verb is go. She was in Africa for some time would become she has been in Africa for some time in the present perfect. Here the verb is be. – user339660 May 2 at 19:25
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    BTW it might be more accurate to say that the true past participle of go is gone, but that it can also borrow the past participle of be. Practically speaking it amounts to the same thing, and I think it's easier to think of go as having two past participles. – user339660 May 2 at 21:55
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    We (AmE) use both. “gone” emphasizes the trip, “been” emphasizes the destination. – Jim May 2 at 22:00
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    Sorry @Minty I'm coming up with a bunch of nada burgers on that title and geography. Maybe it was only published locally for a private academy in Thailand. – Cascabel May 3 at 21:43

We have to be careful about how we use the term past tense. The verb go has no cognate past simple form derived from it. It has a kind of past participle gone. So if we want a past simple, meaning the past of what I go means, we have to resort to the past of another word, now rare in ordinary (non-poetical or archaic) language: 'wend', whose past form is 'went'.

But the use of 'been' in the way that puzzles you goes back a long way. There is the nursery rhyme, for example:-

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

I've been to London to look at the Queen.

"I have been to London" is in the poem, not "I have been in London." It means almost the same as "I have been in London", but not quite the same, I should say. It has the sense of going to a place and coming back again in a short time.

So "I've been to Africa twice" means that I have visited Africa twice (perhaps on holiday, or business or for research). "I've been in Africa twice", on the other hand could mean the same thing, but it could equally means that I have lived in Africa for some significant period of time (longer than a long holiday, for example).

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