- Is this your first time in London or have you been to London before?
- Is this your first time in London or were you in London before?
situation: a local is taking a tourist for a city tour. What should he ask him?
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**Watch how this typically works:
Person One: Have you been to London before? [You are still there, and no one cares when you got there.] Person Two: Yes, I've been here before.
Person One: Really? When did you come to London before?
Person Two: I came to London last year.
Notice the switch from present perfect to simple past above. That is a very usual pattern of speech.
Person One: Were you in London before? [before this time]. You seem to know your way around.
Person Two: Yes, I was here before. I was here last summer.
Either one is fine. In the second one, Person One is asking about a specific time when Person Two might have been in London. In the first, the question is more open ended. Note that in the Second Scenario, the question could also be asked to Person Two when she or he is no longer in London.
To explain the difference we must add several words to each example: - Do you know how to get to the Trafalgar Square from here? ‐ Yes, of course. I must take to the right from the nearest corner and go for half a mile straight. – Well. You're perfectly right. Is this your first time in London or have you been to London before?
‐ What do you want to see in London ? Shopping in the Northern, maybe, if you prefer. Or, something of a Tatler style, high fashion boutiques, I mean, if you like ? Is this your first time in London or were you in London before?
In the first case, we explain the events of the present by that some events happened in the past. In the second, the emphasis is on the fact that the action really happened in the past.