1. Is this your first time in London or have you been to London before?


  1. 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?

  • "Were you in London before?" is American; "Have you been to London before" is British. – Michael Harvey Oct 20 '18 at 15:39
  • been in or been to ? – Subrat Bavarian Bastola Oct 20 '18 at 16:10
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    @MichaelHarvey I belive most Americans would still say "Have you been to this city before?" – Tashus Oct 22 '18 at 15:03
  • I'm torn whether to close this question, but in the end I agree it's really a matter of opinion. Both are equally acceptable. – Andrew Oct 31 '18 at 17:37
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    I'm American (expat) and I strongly disagree with @MichaelHarvey. "Have you been to X before" is overwhelmingly preferred in Am.E. – TypeIA Oct 18 '19 at 19:05

**Watch how this typically works:

FIRST Scenario
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.

SECOND Scenario
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.

  • 1
    "I must take to the right from the nearest corner and go for half a mile straight" is not idiomatic English. – Colin Fine Jul 16 '20 at 22:22
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    Neither is: how to get to the Trafalgar Square – Lambie Jul 16 '20 at 22:23
  • This is something to add to the subject. Now let's start heading toward the village, which I think I know how to get to from here. But who's to know? Iasin may be lost somewhere in some remote part of this ... Living on the Edge, Rosiland Miller, 2002. I decide to head towards the kitchen since it's the only other place I know how to get to from here. I walk around, admiring the sheer beauty of it again. Loving Olivia, M.C.Roman, 2016. – kngram Jul 17 '20 at 22:28
  • For those who may not be familiar. To take to means prefer. The right means the right side here. To take to the right side means the same as prefer veering starboard. The jargon of transport workers. From the nearest corner means when walking from the nearest corner. Jargon ellipsis. Both interlocutors can watch the street corner that is in front of them. It is an example of the specific jargon. Even so, it is went down very well in the regions where people of some professions make up a large proportion of population. And it has long been the ordinary spoken speech. – kngram Jul 17 '20 at 23:19
  • There is no "to" in "take to the right". Yes, if someone takes to something it means they have grown to like it, but it's completely wrong for this context; we are giving directions. Instead the following is preferable: "take a/the right onto [street name]" or just "turn right AT the nearest corner" P.S if you want to reply to users, place @ before their username e.g. @ColinFine – Mari-Lou A Jul 19 '20 at 15:50

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