I am aware that when talking talking about visiting or having experience of being in some places, we have to use the preposition to with the present perfect. But what about if are talking about being in some some services such school or prison? For example,

I have never been in/to prison.

I have never been in/to university.

1 Answer 1


When you use to with an institution like a prison or a university, it indicates that you were there as one of the people that it's intended for- as an inmate of a prison, or a student of a university. If you worked there as a warder or professor, you would not use to.

in can be used in the same way about a prison, but not (in UK English) a university or school.

If you want to talk about visiting the physical premises of a type of institution, but not as a student or inmate, you would add an indefinite article, or specify the name of a particular institution:

I have never been in/into/inside/to a prison.
I have never been in/into/inside/to Broadmoor prison.

I have never been to a university
I have never been to Cambridge university

You would not use in/into/inside for a university because a university is generally made up of several independent buildings. A prison may have multiple buildings, but they are generally all enclosed by one wall or fence.

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