A: How is your weekend going?

B: I have been sightseeing (today) and earlier I was at the beach/I had been at the beach(?)

Which form should I use?

5 Answers 5


"How is your weekend going?"


"I have been sightseeing today, and earlier I was at the beach."

Using "earlier I had been at the beach" here is incorrect. If you shift to past perfect, a time reference exists that has no action in it. (A listener might think "had been? what happened then?")

Compare with:

I had been at the beach for only an hour, but I already felt sunburned.


When I decided to go sightseeing, I had already been on the beach a long time.


I had been to the beach before I went sightseeing.

In each of these examples, something happened "when you had been..." (or "after you had been..."). If there is nothing that you want to report "when or after you had been", do not use the past perfect, use simple past: "was".


You only need the Past Simple for both clauses. The adverb earlier informs the listener the sequence of events: They went to the beach BEFORE they went sightseeing.

I went sightseeing today, and earlier I was at the beach.

A sentence with Past Perfect would look like this:

I went sightseeing today AFTER I had been at the beach.

  • If it is still today, the present perfect " I've been sightseeing today" is possible as well, isn't it?
    – anouk
    Aug 3 at 17:21
  • 1
    @anouk If the action is finished and the speaker knows they are not going to continue sightseeing that day then the simple past is appropriate. If they want to continue the activity, the speaker could/should use the Present Perfect Continuous: I've been sightseeing for three hours or since 4 p.m. However, if the time of day is approaching evening, I would use the simple past. Neither tense is wrong, but to my ears the Simple Past sounds more logical and natural especially as we know they had been at the sea earlier.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 3 at 18:18
  • @ Mari-Lou A What if it were earlier in the afternoon, would the simple past still seem more logical?
    – anouk
    Aug 3 at 18:46
  • Speaker A asks: “How is your weekend going?" Speaker B replies with the simple past because that activity has been completed. If they were still visiting museums, castles and monuments surely they would have replied "Bla.. bla,... beach this morning, and now I'm still doing a bit of sightseeing”
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 3 at 18:57
  • "neither tense is wrong". Which tenses do you mean?
    – anouk
    Aug 5 at 10:04

This depends on whether the speaker wishes to convey when the 'being at the beach' occurred relative to the sightseeing.

The 'earlier I was at the beach' phrase implies no particular time, whether before or after the sightseeing; whereas the 'earlier I had been at the beach' implies the 'being at the beach' occurred earlier in the day than the sightseeing.


Today I have been sightseeing and I went to the beach earlier. "Earlier" makes it clear that the sightseeing came after the beach.


If you use the first version, by using the same verb construction you suggest that the two experiences were very much the same in terms of their impact on you. You spent some time sunbathing, and then you went sightseeing. Nothing special about either day.

Using the second version, "I had been at the beach" is the sort of expression which would ordinarily be followed by, "(for some period) when (something happened)". It would invite immediate curiosity about what happened at the beach.

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