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This is from a British film Anybod's nightmare see:46:33-46:35

Two people in a car are looking for a place by looking at a map while driving. They can't agree on whether they are on the right street, and one says to the driver:

"We have been down this street already."

This sentence reminded me of the idiomatic structure: "have/has been to a place" as in the case of "I have been to London". But, this sentence says "....been down this street..".

Why is it "......been DOWN this street", because at school we were taught that "....have been to a place" is a fixed expression. So, we got the impression that you can't change such expressions, but in real life I see these changed versions.

So, I want to ask, is it ok when we put other things into such fixed expressions, as in the case of ".....have been down this street" instead of the fixed version "....have been to a place."?

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  • Are you sure that is right link?
    – Lambie
    Apr 2, 2023 at 20:59
  • It is on Youtube. It opens on my computer. I think it may not be allowed in the UK. The name of the movie is Anybody's Nightmare (2001 TV movie), starring Patricia Routledge. Here is another link, but this time, the sentence is at 46:06. Here is the link: youtube.com/watch?v=zL82SOSQSYk
    – Yunus
    Apr 2, 2023 at 21:23
  • "Go down a street" means "walk/drive along it". Apr 3, 2023 at 8:15
  • @KateBunting but it says "....been down this street," not "....go down this street."
    – Yunus
    Apr 3, 2023 at 9:12
  • Yes, but 'be' in this kind of context means the same as 'go'. She could have said "We have driven/passed down this street before", but have been to/in/up/down is a very common way to say that you have visited a place or passed through a location. Apr 3, 2023 at 9:22

2 Answers 2

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With regard to the film, see the explanation below the following paragraph.

START There is a metaphorical meaning of: go down a street or road. It is an idiom that means we've already dealt or discussed this situation before. We've experienced whatever it is before. We have "traveled this distance before". END

However, in real life, on a real road, it's depends on your vantage point (the have been part is the same):

have been + up+ OR down the street.

There are tons of these in English: have been around the town, have driven around the Washington, DC beltway. Or around the London Ring road. Have flown across the US. etc. etc.

In English, depending on how you view a street, your opinion of the street (or avenue or road) you are on, it can be up or down.

Let's take an easy example:

If you are at the beginning of a street like the Champs Elysées in Paris at the Arc de Triomphe, going towards the Place de la Concorde, you would say "down the avenue". If on the other hand, you are at Place de la Concorde and will go along the Champs Elysées towards the Arc de Triomphe, you would say "up the avenue." The blue line is the Champs Elysées.

Though up and down is often relative, in this case, up would facing North and down would be facing South, which you would know, if you know Paris at all, basically.

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Now, go to a street could be anywhere along the street. Whereas if walking or driving or cycling (moving), you would tend to say up or down to mean travel along that street in some direction. Sometimes, up or down is not really scientific. It's a matter of perception. Sometimes, it isn't.

If I walk down Fifth Avenue in New York City, and go in the direction of the cross-streets as they go down (53rd, to 52nd, to 51st and so on), it is down. The opposite would be walk up Fifth Avenue.

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been down this street before = have walked or driven along this street in the past (can be used figuratively, where "street" means "situation")

been to this street before = have arrived at this street (as at an intersection; perhaps you are driving around the city and making turn after turn because you're lost);

been to {a named street}, e.g. have been to South Street = have visited South Street ( as a neighborhood or district ). Have you been to Savile Row?

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