I took this sentence below from Oxford English Grammar Intermediate by Swan.

I've been to sleep three times during this lesson.

I've never seen that construction before. What I've seen so far is

(Has/Have/Had) + been + (adjective/gerund)

Why do they use infinitive there? Does it still have the same meaning if the infinitive form is replaced by gerund?

I mean:

I've been sleeping three times during this lesson.

  • Your cited context is rather peculiar. In practice, I think for that exact context, a native speaker wouldn't use the Present Perfect for your first example - it would normally be Simple Past I fell asleep three times during the lesson. Note that it's not idiomatic to say I've been [doing something] three times (but it's fine to say something like I've been doing it three times a week. And it's also okay to say I've been jogging three times (where "jogging" is a gerund rather than a continuous verb, and the assertion implies an unstated ...in my entire life or similar. Sep 3, 2021 at 11:22

2 Answers 2


I think what might be confusing you is that this similar to the idiom to go to sleep, meaning "to fall asleep", and you should think of sleep here as a noun, not a verb, and been means the same thing as gone. So you see that it's not a to-infinitive, but to a place or activity. We could use this construction with other nouns, too, like

I've been to the doctor three times


I've been to soccer practice already this week

Your suggested version, I've been sleeping three times during this lesson doesn't really make sense or mean the same thing as the original sentence, because the progressive tense describes a continuing action, like

I didn't hear what the professor said, because I was sleeping.

but the original sentence means that I went from being awake to being asleep three separate times.


This is a special example of been as effectively the perfect of go.

We usually use it for travelling:

I've been to France.

means roughly the same as

I went to France and came back.

This construction is only used with been, not other parts of to be: you can't say I am to France or I will be to France in Modern English.

Where the "going" is metaphorical, rather than literal, you can use this pattern as well, as long as there has been a (metaphorical) return, so:

He's been to hell and back!

Go to sleep is such an idiom (meaning "start sleeping") so the same pattern applies:

I've been to sleep.


I went to sleep and woke up again.

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