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How long have you been to Hawaii?

I had a discussion about the sentence in the title and was told, the sentence is wrong or funny, or you do not say that way.

I think the phrase "have been to (place)" is used to describe an experience that you went to the place. That may be why the phrase "have been to" is not suitable to ask the term staying there.

In addition, I got this information. In this URL, one of the comments clearly say ""How long have you been to Australia?" is not correct."

However, I am not fully convinced. So do you think the sentence in the tile is wrong?

P.S. I am sure the sentence does not have any issue on the grammatical structure.

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    Yes it is wrong. but it’s not clear whether you mean, “How long have you been in Hawaii?” or “How long has it been since you were in Hawaii?”. Alternatively, “How long since you went to Hawaii?” – Jim Jul 11 '16 at 0:34
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Yes, it both "sounds wrong" to a native speaker, and it doesn't make sense.

The phrase "[person] has been to [place]" simply means the person was present in the place at least once. It contains no information or implications about when they were there, for how long, or why. "has/have been to" is completely without duration. Asking "how long" makes no sense.

The question "Have you been to [place]?" is a question with a "yes" or "no" answer. Are you asking how long ago the person visited? Are you asking how long they stayed in the place? In either case, one would ask those questions instead.

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How long have you been in Hawaii?

Asks from the listener about the time span he has stayed in Hawaii.

How many times have you been to Hawaii?

Asks from the listener about the number of times he has visited Hawaii.

been to + [some place] = visited + [some place]

Therefore, your sentence can be re-written as follows:

How long have you visited Hawaii?.

Now you should understand, it's a meaningless question.

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  • From a technical perspective it could be interpreted as meaning "How long have you been going to Hawaii?" That is, it would be a followup question: "Oh, you've been here before?" "Yes, every year for a while now." "How long have you been going to Hawaii?" "Since 2012." But a native speaker would use the word "going" here. – torek Jul 11 '16 at 2:22
  • But How long have you visited Hawai'i? is an okay sentence, unlike How long have you been to Hawai'i? – Alan Carmack Jul 15 '16 at 14:33
  • It's also perfectly fine to say something like "How long has it been since you went/came to Hawaii?" – Catija Jul 15 '16 at 16:11

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