I understand been to is used for a complete visit and gone to refers to a trip taking place now or the person being there. My question is about the times where it's gets a bit shady. Based on what I see and hear I began to figure out a rule and I need to check it with an English native speaker: we can use have you gone to a place instead of been to if the journey to that place is short and we're talking about a recent experience. If we focus on a long trip to a place and we focus on a life experience, we use been to.

Talking to a tourist visiting Paris at the hotel:

Have you gone to/been to the top of the Eiffel tower yet? [Both are possible]

Talking to a friend back home in Russia:

Have you ever been to Paris? [Only been to is possible]

Does the rule make sense, or is there a point here I've failed noticing?

2 Answers 2


TL;DR GO to refers to the journey there; BE to refers to the experience of being there, having intentionally gone there.

To be to a place is to travel there (by foot, by horse, by vehicle, etc). In the broadest sense, you take deliberate steps to get there. The place is your destination.

If you had been kidnapped, say, and taken to Boston, a city you'd never set foot in before, you would not say "I've been to Boston" except facetiously, as you did not take deliberate steps yourself to get there. You cannot say that you have experienced Boston, having intentionally gone there.

Although it is not used much nowadays, you can say:

I am to London.

which means "I am going to London" or "London is my destination".

When you want to say that you made a trip to London in the past:

I was to London on a business trip ten years ago.

When you want to say that you count London among the places you've visited, or that you recently were there:

I have been to London.

Excluding the sense "to attend" (as, for example, a school, or musical instrument lessons) to go to a place is to travel to it.

I go to London every two weeks on business.

Ten years ago I went to London every two weeks on business.

I have gone to London on business.

Brevity of visit and recency of visit (your "rule") are not essential to the meaning of go:

There used to be a family with three sets of twins living in this house. Do they still live here in town?
--Oh, no. They've long since gone to London.

P.S. With respect to summits, like the Eiffel Tower, which you ask about, or the peak of Mount Everest, we can inquire whether someone has made their way to the top:

Have you gone up?

or has been present there (has had the experience of being) up at the top:

Have you been up?

Someone who had parachuted down to the peak of Mount Everest might say:

I've been up, but I haven't gone up.

  • +1 Thank you I've learned many new things in your answer including what people actually say in modern English. Though I'm not sure if I got it right. You mean gone to and been to are changeable when they refer to heights and they're not when you refer to visits? Please note my question was about visiting a place plus coming back or not being back.
    – Yuri
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 18:12
  • Your question was about a specious "rule" that involved "short trips" versus "long trips". My answer does not attempt to make a rule about heights; heights are used only incidentally as an example. The relevant distinction between go to and be to is that the former entails deliberate steps to reach the destination, and the latter entails presence at and experience of a place.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 18:59
  • I went to the exhibit but couldn't get in the door, they had so many visitors. So I guess you could say that I've gone to it but I haven't been to it.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 19:11
  • So, there's no practical difference between Have you gone to Paris/the top of the Eiffel Tower? and Have you been to Paris/the top of the Eiffel Tower? Except for what you just said. Am I right? Sorry just checking. :-)
    – Yuri
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 19:13
  • 1
    Yes, "volitional travel to a destination".
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 30, 2018 at 19:27

Been to means visit as a form of go and come.

Elmer is travelling around Europe. He's been to 3 countries so far. He's been to France, he's been to Germany and now he's here with me in Manchester. It's the first time he's been to England.

Gone to with I, you, and we used to be difficult, but now we all have mobile phones we can call and ask "Where have you gone? I can't find you anywhere!" Gone to really means not here. Have you gone to the top of the Eiffel tower? No. I'm here, talking to you..

  • Well, that's wierd because I saw this in a Top Notch coursebook. In the lesson about talking about travel experiences, Have you gone to the top of the Harbour Center Tower? occurrs as a question in an on-the-street interview with a tourist in Canada. Actually this made me reconsider what I knew about been to and gone to and try to come up with a rule. Are you suggesting this question is a pointless one?
    – Yuri
    Commented Dec 31, 2018 at 20:13
  • I would love to go over your book with you, but sadly.. Yeah, think about it. Gone to = not here. Even Murphy's English Grammar in Use won't tell you that Been to is a form of go or come ;-)
    – Matt
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 18:14
  • +1 Thank you Matt though you just sent me to square 1 :-)
    – Yuri
    Commented Jan 1, 2019 at 19:13
  • 1
    Yuri. This is a video I made about been to / in. It also explains gone youtube.com/watch?v=8T-n6ZAS-Ac
    – Matt
    Commented Jan 2, 2019 at 17:45

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