For the following sentence:

I haven't been there in a long time.

I want to know if the above sentence conveys any connection with time up to now. How can I correct this sentence it if it is incorrect?

  • Let me know, if it should be "I haven't been there in a long time" Or, "I haven't been there for a long time". Some of the answers below are using either. – user963241 Jun 7 '12 at 17:04

There's a lot going on with this question, and with the sentence it presents for analysis.

First, being there isn't an action, and neither is not being there. So ignore that definition; it's obviously wrong. (BTW, it's not "present perfect tense" either -- English only has two tenses, Present and Past).

Second, there are four senses of the Perfect construction, which are elucidated here. This is Type 3, the Stative/Resultative sense, used to indicate that the direct effect of a past event still continues. In this case the past event is the speaker's leaving, a long time ago, and the direct effect of that event is the speaker's present absence.

Third, in a long time, like in weeks or in ages, is a Negative Polarity Item (NPI), i.e, it's only grammatical inside the scope of a Negative. So (2), without a negative, is ungrammatical:

  1. I haven't been there in a long time/in weeks/in ages.
  2. **I have been there in a long time/in weeks/in ages.*

What's being asserted in (1) is that the state of the speaker's absence continues to the present from its inception a long time ago, or weeks ago, or "ages" ago. Affirmative ways do exist to say (2):

  • I have been there for a long time/for weeks/for ages.

but they use for [time length], not the NPI construction in [time length]

  • while your answer is technically correct, I'm afraid it might be too "advanced" for the OP. – Alex B. Jun 7 '12 at 18:19
  • @Alex: I still love in-depth and detailed answers. Apart from the NPI thing that I haven't looked up yet, this answer is perfectly clear to me. – user963241 Jun 7 '12 at 18:49
  • Learning it once should be enough. It seems really silly to me to have to figure out some "intermediate" answer for a technical question. Ask a technical question, expect a technical answer. People who ask questions are not stupid; usually they're just misled by bs "intermediate" explanations that were supposed to be replaced by real knowledge in the "advanced" class, but never were. – John Lawler Jun 7 '12 at 20:46

The sentence implies that you have been there some time in the past, only not recently, if that is what you mean by "connection with time up to now".

  • So, is it correct? I thought the present perfect tense is used to show an action that happened in the past and is continuing up right up to now. How does it show that action is continuing to happen? – user963241 Jun 7 '12 at 15:26
  • 1
    @user132317: Whilst it's true "I have been here for a long time" implies you are still here, your example sentence uses "I haven't (have not)..." - which as Jeff correctly says, implies you're no longer there now. – FumbleFingers Jun 7 '12 at 15:37
  • @user132317, no, the present perfect shows that a finished or ongoing action is connected with/important "now". – Alex B. Jun 7 '12 at 15:43
  • Sorry, I don't understand what you mean by "finished or ongoing action". Do you mean "finished and ongoing action"? I'm still not clear if this sentence is correct or incorrect. – user963241 Jun 7 '12 at 15:57
  • No, I mean "OR". – Alex B. Jun 7 '12 at 18:12

One point not properly brought out yet is that "I haven't been there for a long time* means that though you have visited the place, it was some time ago. However, "I haven't been here for a long time" means that you are at the spot now (since that's what here means), but arrived recently.

  • Thanks for the very interesting comment. Reading your and Lawler's answers, I just would like to see if there is any difference in meaning between "I haven't been here (for/in) a long time" – learner May 10 '15 at 14:39

You don't need to change anything in your sentence coz the Present Perfect (Have P.P.), by nature, is usually connected to the Present ("true until now")

Granted there might be some issues if you were making a positive sentence:

I have talked to him. (finished action with present effect)

I have been talking to him. (continuing action until now)

But especially if you're making a negative sentence:

I haven't talked to him. (until now)

I have never talked to him. (until now)

I haven't been talking to him. (until now)


I haven't been there in a while/ in a long time. (until now)

protected by RegDwigнt Mar 17 '14 at 9:45

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