Grammar – Present Perfect I: Have you ever been to. . . ?

Many English learners struggle to understand the present perfect tense. It doesn’t exist in many other languages, so it is difficult to remember when to use it in English. It is easier to understand the present perfect tense if you can remember the different situations in which it can be used.

Life Experiences

You can use the present perfect to talk about your life experiences: places you have visited and things you’ve done in the past. I will explain this in three parts:

Present Perfect I: Have you ever been to …? [This article]
Present Perfect II: Have you ever (done something)?
Present Perfect III: How long have you (done something)?

 

Have you ever been to … ?

 

You can use the present perfect to talk about a place, city or country you have visited or travelled to. The present perfect is used to talk about IF, at any point in your life in the past, you have visited or travelled to a specific place. The present perfect is NOT used to talk about WHEN you did something. It is used to talk about IF you did something!

 

 

Question:
Have you ever been to Rome, Italy?

Correct answers:

Yes, …
I have!
I’ve been to Rome (once, twice, etc.).
I’ve been there (once, twice, etc.).

No, …
I haven’t!
I haven’t been to Italy.
I haven’t been there.
I’ve never been to Rome.
I’ve never been there.

 

Incorrect answers:

X: I’ve ever been to Rome.
X: I’ve been to there.
X: I’ve been to Rome in 2005.
X: I’ve never been in Rome.

 

NOTES:

- Ever is NOT used in statements. It is only used in questions with the present perfect.

- It is common in English to use the verb be to talk about places you have visited or travelled to. ‘Visit’ or ‘travel’ is more formal.

- Prepositions do not always translate from your language into English. The preposition to is used with ‘be’ in the present perfect. There is no specific reason why we use ‘to’ here. That’s just the way English is!

I’ve been to Australia.
She’s been to 45 out of the 50 states in America.

- If you want to say WHEN you did something, use the simple past:

Have you ever been to Rome?
~ Yes, I’ve been to Rome! I went to Rome in 2005.

 


21 Comments on Grammar – Present Perfect I: Have you ever been to. . . ?

  1. Vla
    August 24, 2012 at 8:30 am (2 years ago)

    Would you be please so kind as to check sentence:
    We nowhere have ever seen so many food/We nowhere else have ever seen so many food

    My objective is = Affirmative+ever+nowhere

    I’ll appreciate your kind comments

  2. Mihtartari
    September 13, 2012 at 7:31 pm (2 years ago)

    Melanie, I’ve loved your article it helped me a lot… thank you. :)

  3. Luís
    October 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi, Melanie
    This phrase is correct? ‘Don’t ever give up’
    I know I could say: Never give up
    but ‘Don’t ever give up’ is wrong?
    Thank you.

    • Melanie
      November 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi, Luís!

      Remember to ask, “IS this phrase correct?”

      BOTH of your sentences are correct:
      “Don’t ever give up!”
      “Never give up!”

      There is an exception to every rule in English! “Don’t ever ….” is accepted in English, even though it doesn’t follow the ‘rule.’ It is often used because it sounds stronger & more forceful than ‘never.’ For example …

      “Don’t ever call me again.”
      “Don’t ever change.”

      Thank you for reminding me about “Don’t ever”! I didn’t even think about it when I wrote this article.

      = )

  4. Abbas
    October 31, 2012 at 3:40 am (2 years ago)

    Many thanks for the useful lesson.

  5. Ray
    March 10, 2013 at 11:37 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Melanie,
    In Taiwan, the English textbooks say “I have ever been to Rome” is correct. When I read the book ‘Year of Wonders” which takes place in England in the 1600s, the characters use “I have ever …” when speaking which leads me to believe that it used to be correct, but it has fallen out of fashion. Do you have any information on why we stopped using this or at least direct me to a website? I’ve tried to research it, but can’t find anything definite. I would love to tell my students once and for all WHY we don’t use “I have ever …”anymore. Thanks

    • Melanie
      March 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi, Ray,

      I wish I could help but I have no idea why we stopped using that form! You really need new textbooks!

      The only thing I can suggest is contacting someone in the ‘English linguistics’ department of a university. People who study ‘linguistics’ will have a better idea of how the English language developed.

      All the best,
      Melanie

  6. Juliana
    March 17, 2013 at 5:19 pm (2 years ago)

    I have a question about the grammer structure of the present perfect continuous questions.
    why is it written as:” have you been… ” in stead of “have been you…” ?

    • Melanie
      March 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi, Juliana!

      The subject always comes after the FIRST helping/auxiliary verb in the question form. So even though there are two helping verbs in the present perfect continuous, the subject always comes after ‘have’!

  7. ammar
    March 21, 2013 at 7:04 am (2 years ago)

    hi
    could someone correct the tense of the sentence below(IN CAPITAL ) and also explain why the amended version is correct:

    I’VE BEEN TO the cinema on thursday

    • Melanie
      March 21, 2013 at 9:47 pm (2 years ago)

      Hi, Ammar,

      The correct sentence is “I went to the movies on Thursday.”

      1. ‘Be’ is not used to talk about going to the movies.

      2. The present perfect is not used because you said WHEN you went (Thursday). From the above article: “The present perfect is NOT used to talk about WHEN you did something. It is used to talk about IF you did something! … If you want to say WHEN you did something, use the simple past.”

      3. ‘Cinema’ is not used in American English. Use ‘go to the movies’ instead.

  8. niloofar
    May 1, 2013 at 8:29 am (2 years ago)

    thank you melanie your article was so usefull

  9. daniel
    June 14, 2013 at 3:23 am (2 years ago)

    Hi Melanie,

    I really confused about “Have been” and “Has been” while I am speaking English. I know the differences between these verbs but somewhat confused with these two. For example :”While many of Nato officers have been killed in the army”

    In the above sentence, why can’t we use “has been” ? And Why “Have been killed” does it mean they are going on killing them. I need your help to make me understand this Melanie.

    thanks
    Danny

    • Melanie
      June 30, 2013 at 4:49 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi, Danny!

      It is much easier than you think. ‘Have’ & ‘has’ are different verb forms of the verb ‘have.’ They are not two different verbs:
      I have
      You have
      He/She/It has
      We have
      They have

      The verb ‘have’ is used in the perfect tenses. ‘Have been’ & ‘has been’ are the present perfect forms of the verb ‘be.’

      Compare:
      Have you ever been to Rome, Italy?
      ~ Yes, I have been to Rome!

      Has he ever been to Rome, Italy?
      ~ Yes, he has been to Rome!

      Your sentence:
      “While many of Nato officers have been killed in the army”
      – This is a strange sentence. It doesn’t look like it is a complete sentence. There should be more to this sentence. Where did you see/hear this sentence?
      – ‘Many of the NATO officers’ is a plural subject. It is the same as using ‘they,’ so the correct form is ‘have.’
      – ‘Have been killed’ is the passive voice. In this sentence, it is not important who killed the NATO officers. This is what the sentence looks like in the active voice:
      “The enemy has killed many of the NATO officers in the army.”

  10. Matt S
    October 2, 2013 at 10:31 am (1 year ago)

    Hello, Melanie—

    I’m confused about the word selection for simple closed-ended questions. Specifically, “Have you…” or “Did you…” For example, “Have you ever ridden a horse?” or “Did you ever ride a horse?” Can you tell me which is correct and explain why? Also, does it make a difference if there is a greater level of detail in the question? For example, “Did you ever ride a horse on a trail in the rain?” or “Have you ever…?

    Thank you for your help.

    Matt

    • Melanie
      Melanie
      October 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi, Matt!

      This is a good question! I had to think about it awhile & do some research.

      We use the present perfect in this context to ask IF someone has ever done something. We ask about the act itself. We ask because we don’t know anything about the person’s experience.

      “Have you ever ridden a horse?” We don’t know if the person has ever done this activity. We don’t care WHEN the person did this activity, we only want to know IF they did this.

      The question “Did you ever …” is used when you know something about the person’s past experience.

      “Did you ever ride a horse?” = I know that this person wanted to ride a horse. He has told me previously that he was interested in this, so I ask him if he ever did this activity (because we had talked about it before).

      You can add more details to both questions:
      “Have you ever ridden a horse on a trail in the rain?” = Have you ever done this activity?

      “Did you ever ride a horse on a trail in the rain?” = I know that you meant to do this activity/you wanted to do this activity, and now I am asking if you did it.

      = )

  11. Ilona
    November 13, 2013 at 5:44 am (1 year ago)

    Hello, Melanie!
    I’m really sure that you can help me. I don’t know what to do in this situation: I’ve been/ I was Leonardo Di Caprio’s stunt double in “Titanic”?

    I’m not sure we can use Present Perfect in that case…

    • Melanie
      Melanie
      November 15, 2013 at 4:07 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi, Ilona!

      The correct sentence is,
      “I was Leonardo DiCaprio’s stunt double in Titanic.”

      You can’t use the present perfect because you specified WHEN he worked as a stunt double: when Leonardo DiCaprio was filming Titanic.

      If you didn’t add when or specify which movie, you could say,
      “I’ve been Leonardo DiCaprio’s stunt double.”
      = at some point in the past, I did this & I will probably do it again.

      = )

  12. Nahla
    March 18, 2014 at 9:53 am (9 months ago)

    Hi, Melanie!

    I have a question about using ‘ever’ in the present perfect tense.

    You said that “I have ever been to Rome” is wrong. Can you tell me why this is incorrect? What is the rule about it?

    Also, the statement “Rome is the best place I’ve ever been to!” is correct, right?
    Then why ‘ever’ here is correct and not the other sentence?

    I am really confused with these parts. I hope you can help me.

    Thank you very much.

    • Melanie
      Melanie
      March 24, 2014 at 4:49 pm (9 months ago)

      Hi, Nahla!

      “I have ever been to Rome” is wrong because it is an incorrect use of ‘ever.’ It’s repetitive. “I have been to Rome” means that at some point the past, you visited Rome. That’s the same meaning as ‘ever': “at any time in the past …” [present, or future; definition from Macmillan.]

      “Rome is the best place I’ve ever been to!” = a very different statement from “I have been to Rome.”
      This is a comparison statement. It’s comparing Rome to all the places that you visited in your life. ‘Ever’ & the present perfect are not used in the main clause, only in the ‘that’ clause.

      Don’t try to fight it! That’s just the way English is! Using ‘ever’ in “I have ever been to Rome” is wrong. There is never going to be a reason why that satisfies you! Using ‘ever’ in this statement just tells people that you are still learning how to speak English. It is correct to use ever in the statement “Rome is the best place I’ve ever been to!” That’s just the way it is!

      = )