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There are two phrases: "have gone to" : someone went to some place but didn't come back.

"have been to": someone went to some place and come back.

I understand the phrase "have gone to" like this: 1a. I went to the US. 1b. I have gone to the US. With the simple past tense, sentence 1a means the action "went" happened in the past. With the present perfect tense, sentence 1b means the action "have gone" has finished until now. Therefore, the phrase "have gone to" means someone went to some place but didn't come back.

However I have difficulty in understanding the phrase "have been to". I made up two sentences 2a and 2b. I am wondering what does the phrase "be to some place" means like in 2a.

2a. I was to the US.

2b. I have been to the US.

  • You would say I have been here before. but never "I have gone here." Other than a correction of I was in the US. the meanings do overlap a lot. – shawnt00 Mar 20 '16 at 20:50
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I have gone to the US

in the context you are thinking seems weird to me.

But, you are right...

I have been to the US

means you visited the place and came back.

However, have/has gone to not necessarily mean that s/he will not come back. For instance...

Where's John? ~ He has gone to the supermarket. He'll be back in an hour.

has gone... talks about the 'current status'.

To clarify further...

He has been to the US - He visited the place at least once. Visited means went and came back

He has gone to the US - He's in the US. Of course, he can come back!

He was in the US - This talks about his status of being in the US somewhere in the past. We are not emphasizing on the 'visit' (or else it could have been 'have been to the US').

Let me know any other instance that I missed here.

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Where have you been the last two weeks?

I was in the US.

Both responses would work but this one is more natural.

Have you ever traveled to North America?

I have been to the US.

Again both answers would work but this one is much more common.

Which country were you in when that happened?

I was in the US.

The alternative sentence does not work here.

Where are you currently living?

I have been in the US since...

The other sentence doesn't work here either because the living/being in is ongoing.

I hope these examples are helpful even without trying to dive in and explain why the meanings are slightly different and why the tenses don't necessarily match between the question and the answer. Don't try to make too much sense of it. It's probably just something that comes with practice and familiarity.

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