8

A friend of mine invited me to visit her.
She was afraid that I would get lost, so she said she would be waiting for me at the bus station.

When we finally met at the bus station, I said,

"Sorry I am late. I have never been here."

Is it natural to say I have never been here in this conversation?
Or instead, should I say I have never been there?

29

Native speakers would typically say "I have never been here before" in this context.

You are talking about the place where you are currently, so here is correct. But the sentence "I have never been here" sounds self-contradictory: how can you have never been in the place where you are right now? Adding before restricts the "have never been" to the past and removes the contradiction.

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    Perhaps just my opinion, but as a native speaker I might easily omit "before" and I wouldn't take any notice of whether someone added it or not. If they're here now, then it's implicitly speaking about the past. – Darren Ringer Apr 19 '18 at 13:26
  • You definitely do not always need before. "I've been..." said the soldier, trailing off as he peered around at the miraculous equipment in the secret laboratory. He suddenly remembered he had been speaking. "I've been to this building so many times, but I've never been *here*. What *is* this place?" – Ben I. Apr 19 '18 at 18:14
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    Reminds me of an exchange from a show, after shaking hands with Gray Davis: "This is quite an honor. I've never shaken hands with a governor" "Actually, I was just voted out of office" "Like I said,I've never shaken hands with a governor". – Acccumulation Apr 19 '18 at 18:39
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    @BenI. It's a matter of emphasis. In your example, you're emphasizing a specific part of the building, and you stress "here". But in the OP, the reason for getting lost is that this is a new experience, and "before" emphasizes that. – Barmar Apr 20 '18 at 3:49
  • @Acccumulation IRL the ex-governor would smile and probably think: "what a smart@.. this guy is..." – CPHPython Apr 20 '18 at 8:58
10

What you said is correct and natural. You use "here" when the place is near your current position, while "there" is used when the place is far from you. So, in the situation that you were already there, and you wanted to talk about the place you were in then "here" is the correct word of choice.

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    I agree that "here" is correct - but as @zwol says, it would be much more natural to say "never been here before" :) – psmears Apr 19 '18 at 14:46
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    Also, it's natural for native speakers (USA) to use the contraction "I've" instead of "I have." "I've never been to Greece" and "I've never been here before." – user8356 Apr 19 '18 at 15:43
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    @user8356 It's natural for all native English speakers to use contractions. I have has a slight emphasis on have, whereas I've has no emphasis and is neutral. Second language speakers of English often don't realise this distinction. – CJ Dennis Apr 20 '18 at 4:49
2

I would have said

Sorry I am late. I had never been here.

Because I would, at that moment, be there. Of course, I am not there now, so I do not use the word "here" now. But I would have used "here" in the moment. Now that I am no longer there, I say there. I am always here in the present, but in the past I may have been there. Although I was here in the morning as well.

The "before" at the end would magnify that sense of prior to that moment, but I think that the "had" is sufficient. There is an English grammar "rule" not to end sentences with a preposition, so some would prefer not to end the sentence with "before" to comply. However, non-compliance is common, particularly in spoken English. Adding the "before" to the sentence with "have" makes it descriptively correct if not perfect grammar.

You could also say

Sorry I am late. I had never been here previously.

"Previously" is never a preposition, so it won't make people think that you are ending a sentence with a preposition. But "previously" doesn't come through as naturally as "before" does. It sounds more stilted and formal.

Sorry I'm late. This is my first time here.

This also works.

To restate, here is where I am now. There is someplace that I am not currently. So in your original sentence, it should be "here" rather than "there" because you are currently at the time of speaking at that place.

Now, you might say

Sorry I was late. I had never been there.

Because you are presumably no longer in that place. So it is now there rather than here (wherever you may be now). Unless of course you are reading this on your mobile in the same location. Then you would properly still use here.

  • I disagree. You use "had never" when the time you're comparing to is in the past, you use "have never" when you're comparing to the present. Google "had never versus have never". – Barmar Apr 20 '18 at 3:53
  • I like that you mentioned how we'd use there instead of here if we are having our conversation later on, and we are no longer near the meeting place. – J.R. May 4 '18 at 13:57
2

The answer to the question you asked is very clear: we say "here" when you are describing a place you are in (physically or metaphorically), and "there" when you're describing something you are far from or separate from.

However, as often happens on this site, the answerers seemed more interested in a different question: whether or not to say "before" at the end of your sentence. Nobody's cited any evidence, which is probably why we are seeing disagreement. (It seems like the disagreement is mostly due to personal preference.)

Looking at Google NGram, both are well-attested. The line on the chart for "never been here" should include every entry for "never been here before". It looks like about 60% of instances from this corpus are "never been here before", so this phrasing may be slightly privileged, but either one should be unremarkable. There was a brief period in the 1810s when "before" seems to have been required, but that looks like an unusual outlier from 200 years ago.

Now that I've complained about personal anecdotes, here's my own personal anecdote. For me, if I added "before", I would probably barely pronounce it: if I said it at all it would be as "I've never been here 'fore". I expect this means I would consider the word superfluous.

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