In the following two examples, what is the difference between the usage of been to and been in? They seem like they have the same meaning but I’m not sure.

-Have you ever been to Florida?
-Yes, I’ve been to Florida many times.

-Have you ever been in Florida?
-Yes, I’ve been in Florida many times.

  • 3
    If you were born in Florida and never left then you've been in Florida but never been to Florida. Aug 8 '12 at 18:31
  • @donothingsuccessfully But in that case no-one would have to ask you if you'd ever been in Florida. Unlike the other respondents, I would say the two questions are identical unless there is something in the context which raises the lexical contrast to a semantic level. Aug 8 '12 at 22:02
  • 1
    @StoneyB Have you ever been in Florida? Aug 9 '12 at 6:28
  • @donothingsuccessfully Cunning fellow, I see where you're going (and it's not to Florida). I withdraw with respect to remote communications. As a matter of fact, yes, I've been to Florida many times. Aug 9 '12 at 12:42

Been to indicates that you are talking about trips or journeys specifically to Florida. To is a preposition of motion and you are talking about movement towards, and arrival in, Florida.

Been in connotes a stay in Florida (which may be short, or very long, or simply passing through). In denotes position, and you are talking about the state or condition of being located in Florida. It doesn't matter whether you took a trip there or not.

  • "He has gone to Paris" means he's there or on his way (to Paris).
  • "He has been to Paris" means he's visited Paris (but he's back now).
  • "He has been in Paris for two months" means he's in Paris now (and has been for the past two months).

The verb be has different meanings in the two examples. In the first example, be is used with the meaning to go (and leave). In the second, it is being used in its more basic sense of existence, or in this case, living in or staying in a location. The two examples can be reworded as:

Q: Have you ever visited Florida?

A: Yes, I've visited Florida many times.

Q: Have you ever lived in Florida?

A: Yes, I lived there for two years when I was a kid.

I believe that the use of many times in the OP's second example is inconsistent.

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    I disagree that been in implies a stay. Sometimes, it is rather the reverse: if I fly DFW-MIA-SAV and never leave the terminal during my layover, I have incontrovertibly been in Florida, but could not say I had been to it.
    – choster
    Aug 8 '12 at 19:02
  • 1
    @choster That's simply splitting hairs. Besides, in that case, you could just as well have been through Florida :) Aug 8 '12 at 19:07
  • @choster - If you were asked whether you had been in Florida and you answered simply "yes" based on a terminal layover, the questioner would feel deceived.
    – bib
    Aug 8 '12 at 19:30
  • While many times may be slightly unidiomatic, I am often in London. Most times, I am only in London for a day, if that.
    – Andrew Leach
    Aug 8 '12 at 20:13
  • @AndrewLeach Quite so. But, it doesn't really work as, "Have you often been in London?" or "Have you been in London often?". OTOH, "Have you been in London long?" sounds better. But it changes the meaning of the question quite markedly. The Q&A of "Have you ever been in London?" and "Yes, I've often been in London." also sounds odd. Aug 8 '12 at 20:31

As a English student with Spanish as mother tongue, it was extremely difficult for me to cope with the idea of "be + to" because "to be" refers inevitably to a location, a place where I am in. On the other hand, verbs of motion like "to go", "to travel"; "to run" express direction and movement towards one direction and this is always expressed with "to". So, this mixed-form "been to + location" was an nightmare for me. My trick to learn it was considering that the verb "visit" as an elided verb. For example. Have you ever been (to visit) Australia?

  • But the to in been to is a preposition; the to in to visit is a particle in the infinitive form of the verb. In your sentence "Have you even been [to visit] Australia" the to changes its part of speech.
    – Andrew Leach
    Feb 6 '19 at 8:51

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