English as a Second Language/have you ever been to / in


Hello Brian,

Working on the present perfect, I have read his sentence :
Have you ever been to Australia ?

the preposition "to" sounds weird for me. I would have said : Have you ever been in Australia?

Can we also use "in" in this case?
Do you know why we use "to"?

Than you for your helps



Hi Caro!

Interesting question.

In that sentence, "been to" is appropriate and correct in that particular context.  There is a difference between the expressions been to and been in.  Been to means to go somewhere for a short time, such as on vacation or when travelling.  Been in is broader, it could mean "travel to" or it could mean "live in".  So you could ask "Have you ever been in Australia?" but then you are incorporating both definitions, whereas "Have you ever been to Australia?" can only mean in the sense of travelling or visiting or staying a short time.

To be honest, I don't actually know why we came to use the expression "be to" rather than "go to", but "to" normally collocates with verbs like "go" or "travel", which is to say the location is just a destination, not necessarily a residence, whereas "in" collocates with "live", which refers to a residence.

Hope that helps, and I hope it wasn't too confusing!

English as a Second Language

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Brian Connelly


I can answer pretty much any question a student might have about English; about grammar, vocabulary, meanings of words, phrases, expressions or idioms, pronunciation, etc. I can answer questions about how to learn or study English better, how to improve certain aspects of communication (listening, writing, speaking, etc), about why we have certain rules.


I've been teaching English in Japan, mainly as a private (one-to-one) teacher, but also at companies such as Universal Studios or international airports. I have taught professional interpreters and translators and I have also taught students who dropped out of high school and never learned any English. Several years ago I acquired the CELTA and I have been running my own classroom for the past year.

None in particular, but I work with a number of companies who regularly introduce me to new students and occasionally to other companies that are looking for English teachers.


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I currently have approximately 40 individual students with whom I work one on one. I have also worked with local manufacturing companies, colleges, local retailers, as well as Sharp, Universal Studios, Itami International Airport, Kobe International Airport

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