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

by Melanie on April 2, 2010

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.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Yousef May 1, 2012 at 6:19 am

Hi Melanie ,
How about the other tenses?I mean past perfect,present perfect continues,and so on .Please I am waiting to see them.It would be nice if you put a forum in your site so that those who have questions can ask them easily.

Reply

Melanie 2 Melanie May 1, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Hi, Yousef!

I chose to write about the present perfect because it’s the tense that English learners have the most trouble with!

If you would like to learn about more tenses, please check out these websites:
http://www.englishpage.com
http://www.perfect-english-grammar.com

I don’t need a forum here because I am on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, & MyEC! These are great places for English learners to ask questions.

= )

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3 Yousef May 6, 2012 at 3:02 am

Thank you so much,Those sites were very helpful.I also have subscribed to your YouTube channel.

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Melanie 4 Melanie May 7, 2012 at 3:39 pm

That’s great! Thank you, Yousef. I hope you enjoy my English video lessons on YouTube! = )

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5 Vla August 24, 2012 at 8:30 am

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

Reply

Melanie 6 Melanie September 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Hi, Vla!

‘Ever’ is not used in statements (affirmative or negative) with the present perfect. I have updated this article with this information so that there is no misunderstanding.

Your sentence should be:
“We have never seen so much food.”

Your sentence fits better into this category:
http://www.englishteachermelanie.com/grammar-present-perfect-ii-have-you-ever-done-something/

= )

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7 Mihtartari September 13, 2012 at 7:31 pm

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

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8 Luís October 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm

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.

Reply

Melanie 9 Melanie November 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm

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.

= )

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10 Abbas October 31, 2012 at 3:40 am

Many thanks for the useful lesson.

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11 Ray March 10, 2013 at 11:37 pm

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

Reply

Melanie 12 Melanie March 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm

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

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13 Juliana March 17, 2013 at 5:19 pm

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…” ?

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Melanie 14 Melanie March 21, 2013 at 9:56 pm

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’!

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15 ammar March 21, 2013 at 7:04 am

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

Reply

Melanie 16 Melanie March 21, 2013 at 9:47 pm

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.

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17 Karen April 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Melanie please
what is have you ever ..

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18 niloofar May 1, 2013 at 8:29 am

thank you melanie your article was so usefull

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19 daniel June 14, 2013 at 3:23 am

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

Reply

Melanie 20 Melanie June 30, 2013 at 4:49 pm

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.”

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21 Andrés June 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

The preposition ‘To’ is used here NOT because of the verb ‘be’.
The verb ‘go’ has two possible past participle forms: gone and been. Here ‘been to’ is the present perfect form of ‘go to’, e.g: She has been to Africa (She went there and then came back), She has gone to Africa (She is on her way to Africa or she is still there but has not come back).
That’s why we keep the preposition ‘to’ as ‘go to’ is a common collocation.

Greetings from Colombia :)

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Melanie 22 Melanie June 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm

No, the verb ‘go’ does NOT have two past participle forms. It only has one.

The past participle of ‘be’ is ‘been.’

The past participle of ‘go’ is ‘gone.’

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23 Matt S October 2, 2013 at 10:31 am

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

Reply

Melanie 24 Melanie October 18, 2013 at 3:33 pm

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.

= )

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25 Ilona November 13, 2013 at 5:44 am

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…

Reply

Melanie 26 Melanie November 15, 2013 at 4:07 pm

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.

= )

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27 Ilona November 13, 2013 at 6:22 am

My parents are trying to find a good English camp for me, because they want me to improve my English. Could you send me some information about that? I’ll be really pleased if you help me!

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Melanie 28 Melanie November 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Hi, Ilona!

How old are you? Are you still in school? Where do you live?

If you are young and still in high school, the best thing to do is an exchange, but a very specific kind of exchange:

You will go to an English-speaking country and live with an English-speaking family. That family will have a daughter your age. You will go to the same school as the daughter. You will be surrounded by native speakers. This is the best way for young people to learn English. Usually, in North America, a language exchange means that you will exchange lives with another person! You will stay with an English-speaking family, then the daughter will come & stay with you in your country!

Ask at your school if they are able to arrange this for you.

Remember that the best way to learn English is to be surrounded by natural spoken English. Going to a camp with other non-native speakers is not going to help you learn English.

Good luck!
= )

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29 Ilona December 2, 2013 at 6:33 am

Hi, Melanie!
I’m 11 years old, so I’m only in the 5th form now. I started studying English when I was 6. I live in Minsk – it’s the capital of Belarus. Belarus is a country which is surrounded by Poland, Russia and Ukraine. That is some information about me.
Thank you very much, Melanie. :)

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Melanie 30 Melanie February 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm

I love Minsk! I have been to Belarus a few times. I have been to Khatyn as well. Minsk is such a lovely city!

Your English is very good. I really hope you can find a school to do an exchange with. I think the best thing for you is to go to a school with English native speakers. I don’t think you will learn anything at a camp for people learning English. You need to be surrounded by other native speakers.

Have you tried visiting the British Embassy in Minsk? Canada unfortunately doesn’t have an embassy in Minsk. The closest embassy is in Warsaw, Poland. Here is a link about studying in Canada:
http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/poland-pologne/study-etudie/index.aspx?lang=eng&menu_id=4

Good luck to you!
= )

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31 Nahla March 18, 2014 at 9:53 am

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.

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Melanie 32 Melanie March 24, 2014 at 4:49 pm

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!

= )

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