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I have been to Madrid in 1990.

Is the above present perfect tense correct?

Why or why not?

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2 Answers 2

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The issue is not grammar but meaning.

When you say "I have been to Madrid" you are talking about yourself, now, you are talking about yourself, now, having had an experience at some indeterminate point in the past. The time frame is the present.

If you then add a phrase "last year", this contradicts the meaning.

While you might occasionally get expressions like this, in general you don't use a past time expression with a present tense.

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  • I upvoted for the first sentence, but the second sentence should say "you are talking about yourself, now, having had an experience at some indeterminate point in the past." As it is, it sounds like you're asserting that one should only say "I have been to Madrid" when one is currently present in Madrid, which is surely not the case.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 5:59
  • that is better.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 8:58
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When you're describing something that happened at a particular time in the past - such as the year 1990 - it's generally expected that you use a past tense, e.g. "I visited Madrid in 1990." or "I went to Madrid in 1990."

The present perfect, instead, is used when you don't have a particular time in the past in mind, e.g. "I've been to Madrid before". That said, the following conversation is still correct:

Q: Have you ever been to Madrid?
A: I have (been to Madrid), in 1990.

Notice the comma that separates the "in 1990" part from the rest of the sentence and into its own clause. This works, because the main clause of the answer confirms the fact that you have been to Madrid before, and the second (dependent) clause just provides a bit of optional detail.

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  • OK. But, Is I have been to Madrid in 1990. grammatically correct or not?
    – user102023
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 2:44
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    By itself, without more context, it is not. The specific time reference - "in 1990" - favors the use of a past tense, not the present perfect.
    – RuslanD
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 2:47
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    @user366312 I would disagree with RuslanD: without context, it is grammatically correct just as the sentence "the atmosphere's empathy smells coffee" is grammatically correct, but in the context of your wanting to express some fact it's probably an incorrect expression of that fact.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 5:54
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    @phoog this being a language learners' forum, I generally assume that questions like "is this correct" involve semantics and pragmatics, and not just syntax. A lot of folks here provide example sentences they actually plan to use, whether in a conversation, or a written homework, or in some other way. I'd rather be proven wrong (and downvoted) than give others a false sense of security just because their sentence formally conforms to English grammar. That said, you're correct that I misspoke when I said the OPs' sentence was not grammatically correct.
    – RuslanD
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 7:50
  • Of course. I don't mean to say that your assertion was wrong in any absolute sense, or really in any sense at all, and I have already upvoted this answer. I just wanted to offer @user366312 a different way of looking at it, a way that I prefer. The thing about this exchange that is most in need of correction is the insistence on an absolute determination whether the phrase is "grammatically correct." A much more useful question would be, as your answer implies, whether the sentence correctly conveys the intended meaning.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 26, 2020 at 16:47

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