I'm helping my friend with his English exercise related to the simple past & present perfect tenses:

Rewrite each of the following sentences in another way so that it means almost the same as the sentence printed before it.

Carrie arrived at the airport two hours ago.

=> Carrie has ______________________

At first, my friend wrote:

  1. Carrie has arrived at the airport for two hours.

I looked at it and just felt something wrong. It seems to me that the action 'arrive' happens only once, it is not a continuing action. So, I advised my friend to change it to:

  1. Carrie has stayed at the airport for two hours.

Is my sentence correct and does it meet the requirement of the exercise?

  • 1
    It's grammatical. The action "arrive" is not progressive. But you can take "arrived" as the current state. It's like you are saying Carrie has been in the "arrived" state for two hours. Nov 7, 2016 at 9:16
  • 4
    Please note that "Carrie arrived at the airport two hours ago" does not necessarily mean that she's still at the airport. She might have left since! Neither your own sentence, nor the ones in the answers, reflect that.
    – Mr Lister
    Nov 7, 2016 at 13:06
  • 25
    @user178049 Um, no. I know of no native speaker who would naturally use or even interpret Carrie has arrived at the airport for two hours to mean Carrie has been in the "arrived state" for two hours. Nov 7, 2016 at 15:03
  • 3
    I'm not a native English speaker, but I'd understand that sentence as meaning "Carrie has arrived at the airport, and will remain there for two hours for before leaving" (i.e., Carrie has arrived at the airport for a two-hour stay), but I wouldn't be surprised if nobody else took that meaning.
    – muru
    Nov 8, 2016 at 10:54
  • 2
    @muru While not exactly standard, your interpretation is definitely valid
    – binaryfunt
    Nov 8, 2016 at 18:24

8 Answers 8


Both your sentence and your friend's sentence have already diverted from the meaning of the original sentence.

The original sentence is "Carrie arrived at the airport two hours ago."

From that sentence, you cannot deduce whether Carrie is still in the airport or has already left the airport for the past two hours. The only information from that sentence is that "Carrie arrived at the airport two hours ago", she is at the airport two hours ago, but she may or may not be in the airport one hour ago. Both your sentence and your friend's sentence assume that Carrie is still in the airport, which cannot be deduce from the original sentence.

A more accurate rewrite of the sentence will be "Carrie reached the airport two hours ago" or "Carrie was at the airport two hours ago".

"Carrie has arrived at the airport for two hours" is not a correct wording of the English language.

"has arrived" is an instantaneous occurrence, whereas "for two hours" implies a continuous activity that takes place over an extended duration.

Carrie will "arrive at the airport" (instantly), but may be stuck in the custom/traffic "for two hours" (over extended duration). However, the concept of "arrived" and "being stuck in custom/traffic" are two difference occurrences.

Similarly, "Carrie has stayed at the airport for two hours" is also not correct wording, as "has stayed" implies an even longer duration (eg. two days) than two hours.

  • 3
    Where are you getting that "has stayed" implies a duration of greater than 2 hours? I've never heard of such a thing. As a native American English speaker, it only indicates she has been at the airport for 2 hours to me, or that she was there for 2 hours at some point in the past. (Distinguishing would probably be a matter of context.)
    – jpmc26
    Nov 9, 2016 at 2:09
  • 4
    I'm not a learner of english. I am a native speaker and I'm having trouble finding the equivalent statement for "Carrie has ______". Is the question flawed?
    – user64742
    Nov 9, 2016 at 5:31
  • 1
    A point addressed in other answers but not here is the simple replacement of "has stayed" with "has been".
    – JdeBP
    Nov 9, 2016 at 8:04
  • This does not even answer the question of "Carrie has_________." And has stayed is grammatical. Nov 9, 2016 at 15:07

It's grammatical, but it doesn't make much sense, a bit like Noam Chomsky's famous sentence, "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously."

To arrive is something that happens instantaneously, not over a period of time: to arrive at the airport means to change your state from "not at the airport" to "at the airport". It doesn't take two hours to do that. It might take two hours to travel to the airport, but that's not arriving: it's travelling.

If Carrie arrived at the airport two hours ago and hasn't left then she has been at the airport for two hours. Being at a place, unlike arriving there, is something that can happen over a period of time.

"Carrie has stayed at the airport for two hours" is also correct but it carries a subtly different connotation. "Has been" is a simple statement that her location for that time was the airport. "To be" is the simplest verb you can use here and, if a speaker uses a more complicated word, you might think they're giving a more complicated message. For example, "Carrie has stayed" very slightly emphasises the fact that she didn't leave. Of course, the fact that "she has been there" there the whole time already implies that she didn't leave, but using a word like "stay" gives just a tiny bit more weight to that idea.

For completeness, just like almost any phrase, there are situations in which "Carrie has been arriving at the airport for two hours" could make sense. For example, if she is stuck in traffic and keeps texting you "I'm arriving now", you might say to your friend "She's been arriving for two hours." But the implication here is that, because arriving is an instantaneous action, you don't accept that she has really arrived. Indeed, in written English you might put scare quotes around "arrived" ("She's been 'arriving' for two hours") to indicate that your use of that word is ironic or disbelieving.

  • 7
    Does it actually sound grammatical to you? Because it certainly doesn't to me, but I might be wrong.
    – DRF
    Nov 7, 2016 at 12:59
  • 18
    I suspect linguists could get into a really knock-down drag-out argument over whether verbs of instantaneous events not being usable with prepositional phrases expressing duration qualifies as a grammar rule. From the descriptively purist perspective, it belongs in the undifferentiated bin of "things native speakers would never say" along with "hours airport Carrie at arrived ago the two". From the "trying to explain why native speakers would never say that" perspective, it's probably useful to hold on to some syntax/semantics distinction.
    – zwol
    Nov 7, 2016 at 13:16
  • 3
    That is true. And I think @zwol has hit the nail on the head. I suppose I am bad at telling whether something is strictly ungrammatical or just sounds really bad since my knowledge of any prescriptive (or descriptive to be honest) grammar is sorely lacking. The strange thing (to me anyhow) is that Chomsky's sentence sounds fine if nonsensical. One other tricky question though. What's up with "She has been arriving at the airport for two hours." That sounds perfectly fine to me even though arrive should be instantaneous.
    – DRF
    Nov 7, 2016 at 13:33
  • 6
    Reading the sentence I immediately visualised a Lovecraftian scenario in which Carrie is caught in some kind of temporal groundhog stasis and is reliving the instant of her arrival at the airport for a duration of two hours. The sentence is grammatical, it’s just horrifying. At least it stopped now. Imagine the terror if the wording had been “has been arriving”. Nov 7, 2016 at 14:24
  • 9
    @DRF: The key is to realise that grammar and semantics are two different things. The sentence sounds nonsensical because it is nonsensical, but that doesn't make it ungrammatical. Nov 7, 2016 at 15:34

Carrie has arrived at the airport for two hours.

This sentence does not work in English. To arrive is an action that is conceived of as taking place at once, not over time. So using a duration (for two hours) with 'has arrived' is not appropriate.

You can make a better sentence by using to arrive in the progressive, since one of the characteristics of the progressive is to show duration:

Carrie has been arriving at the airport for two hours.

Now, as for your sentence

Carrie has stayed at the airport for two hours.

This sentence is grammatical. But taken in isolation we don't know what it is supposed to mean. For example, stay can mean both remain and live as a guest. Using has remained is idiomatic.

But the sentence that "best matches" the given sentence in meaning is

Carrie has been at the airport for two hours.

This assumes, of course, that the original sentence means that Carrie is still at the airport--which it does not have to, but analyzing sentences in isolation is often unproductive. To be is often used in the present perfect to describe a situation that has duration.

  • 1
    "Has remained" sounds unnecessarily formal, to me. "Has stayed" is fine -- nobody's going to think it means that she's "lived there as a guest" for only two hours, so people are going to assume you mean "has remained". Nov 8, 2016 at 8:26
  • @DavidRicherby - I disagree. "Has stayed" is incredibly awkward and seems to imply she's been vacationing there. If we know why she's there, we could say she waited or had been waiting at the airport. Remained is a nice alternative to show she was there without implying vacation.
    – bubbleking
    Nov 13, 2016 at 15:00
  • @bubbleking Stay has multiple meanings, the simplest of which is "continuously occupy a place". I find it hard to believe that anybody would really confuse "I stayed in the airport for two hours" as meaning "I took the world's shortest ever vacation in a really boring place." Just like people can distinguish the multiple meanings of "saw" in "I am a bird-watcher: I saw an eagle" versus "I am a carpenter: I saw wood." Nov 13, 2016 at 15:11
  • @DavidRicherby - I didn't mean to stress so much that anyone would actually think it was a vacation, so much as I wanted to stress that "Carrie has stayed at the airport for two hours" is so awkward that no one would ever say it, and that perhaps remained is slightly less awkward, though still not favorable (though it has the advantage of concluding more naturally with something like "has remained at the airport all this time"). [cont...]
    – bubbleking
    Nov 13, 2016 at 17:59
  • @DavidRicherby - Because of the absurdity of staying or vacationing at an airport for two hours without reason, you would always include the reason or context, like "Carrie has stayed at the airport the entire time we've been at lunch," or even change it to "Carrie has waited at the airport for 2 hours (for her friend to arrive, e.g.)." If we're not going to be offering reason or context, the "has been at the airport" option is the only one that doesn't sound awkward. Between the stayed and remained options, I'd say remained would have a better chance of sounding like a native speaker.
    – bubbleking
    Nov 13, 2016 at 18:04

I would use the present perfect verb (the point of the exercise being use of the present perfect) "has been"

Carrie has been at the airport for two hours.

  • 14
    Would you explain why?
    – uuu
    Nov 7, 2016 at 14:08
  • 1
    The only tense in this sentence is the present tense has. The verb form been is untensed in this example.
    – user230
    Nov 8, 2016 at 12:18

If you want to keep most of the words from the original sentence, I would use:

Carrie has been at the airport ever since she arrived two hours ago.

The original sentence's focus is on the arrival at the airport, and this is preserved in this version.


The syntax is valid but the semantics is not.

see https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/29504/syntactically-correct-semantically-incorrect-sentence

Any native speaker would conclude that the person making the statement was a non-native. This is because "for..." implies a duration, and arrival is normally considered associated with an instant. That said, most of us could figure out what was intended.

I would guess that the error was made by a French speaker. In French the words "since (instant)" and "for (duration)" are the same, "depuis". Perhaps it is the same in other languages.

Note that you also cannot say "since two hours" because "two hours" is a duration. You could say "since two hours ago" or "since two o'clock", because those options refer to instants in time rather than durations.


To me, the fact that the exercise is an "English exercise related to the simple past & present perfect tenses" would lead me to believe that:

Carrie has.... is a prompt to write in the present tense.

Therefore the aswer would simply be:

Carrie has arrived at the airport.

As this is the present tense equivalent of the first statement.

Edit: John Burgers answer is actually what they are looking for:

Carrie has been at the airport for two hours.

My own sentance was probably not similar enough although I would argue if I had been marked down "almost the same as" could apply to mine too!


Carrie has been at the airport since she arrived 2 hours ago.

Carrie has been at the airport for 2 hours after she arrived.

Carrie has been at the airport after she arrived 2 hours ago.

  • Please don't just give example sentences: you need to explain why they answer the question. In this case, I don't think your second and third suggestions are very good. The second one feels clumsy because she couldn't have been at the airport before she arrived there. The third one has the problem that "has been at the airport" doesn't suggest continuity and doesn't say that she's still there now, and "after" suggests that you're talking about two separate events. That suggests that Carrie arrived, left, returned and maybe left again, all in the course of two hours. Nov 13, 2016 at 15:16

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