In the First Class Complete Edition (official Cambridge book) there's an example:

None of us (ever ski) before so we had been looking forward forward to it for months.

Naturally I wrote "None of us had ever skied before so we had been looking forward to it for months." But the only right answer, so the book says, is "had ever been skiing".. Why??

To put things into perspective, is is even idiomatic or at least colloquial to say:

"I have never been playing football"?

  • To me, I've never been skiing before is syntactically on a par with I've never been on holiday before, rather than a "continuous" version of I've never skied before. Jul 17, 2021 at 12:55

2 Answers 2


Your answer is grammatically correct. You can say "had ever skied". But in most cases, when referring to a trip, event or outing, people use the idiomatic phrase "to go skiing" instead of "to ski".

You can find some discussions online where people differentiate between the two phrases and give them more general and specific meanings but it's not clear that there is any objective basis for this.

  • 1
    But there's no word "go" anywhere in the sentence..
    – Ceejay
    Jul 17, 2021 at 12:48
  • 1
    It could be that they implied it was more about the trip/vacation than the physical activity given that the sentence ends with "...we had been looking forward to it for months." It's not perfect and might be poorly communicated.
    – dubious
    Jul 17, 2021 at 12:51
  • @Ceejay "Go" has two past participles: "gone" and "been", so "...had ever been skiing..." is the past perfect of "go".
    – gotube
    Jul 17, 2021 at 19:54
  • @gotube since when has "been" become the form of "go"?
    – Ceejay
    Jul 17, 2021 at 21:53
  • I don't know the history of the word, but that's the way it is. In this context, "had ever been skiing" is a form of "go skiing", not "be skiing".
    – gotube
    Jul 18, 2021 at 11:16

This mirrors the 'go fishing / shopping / shooting / hunting // come dancing / shopping ...' 'phase structure', but with 'be' instead of 'go' is far less productive. "Have you never been fishing / dancing / shopping / ... in Wigan?" are idiomatic; notice that they point to a one-off 'achievement'.

Both your answers are correct (as arguably is 'had ever gone skiing'); I'm not sure why a phase structure is demanded by the textbook. It's a refined choice.

'Go playing' is far less idiomatic, though "They've gone playing football" sounds an awful lot better than standalone "I've never been playing football". Obviously, the non-phase "I've never been playing football on the airfield when a plane came in to land" is a different situation.

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