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Have you ever been to...?

Have you ever been to Iceland?
Yes, I have. I went last year with my boyfriend.
No, I haven't. I'd like to go someday.

The (dreaded) present perfect is just the tense you need when talking about you or someone else's travel experiences. I know, I know, it's a ridiculous tense that we use only in English, deal with it. It's such a useful tense, and yes, it can be complicated, but today we're just going to focus on how to use it to talk about your experiences, particularly your travel experiences. So keep reading if you need a crash course or just a grammar touch up on the present perfect!


The present perfect - experiences

So let's analyze the question and answers at the top of the page. We often use the present perfect simple to ask people about their past experiences. Imagine your brain as a box of memories. You ask if the person has a certain memory, they think for a split second and answer that, yes, they have that memory, or no, they don't (yet). So during this period when people start going on holiday, it's only normal (especially in the workplace) to make some small talk and ask people about their experiences. Let's see a quick example dialogue:

Mike: Hi Rachel, where are you going on holiday this year?

Rachel: Oh, my boyfriend and I are going to Bali. Have you been?

(she uses the PPS to form a question because she doesn't know what's in Mike's memory box)

Mike: Wow exotic! No, I haven't been there yet, but I have been to Thailand.

(he uses a negative to answer her question, and a positive to share another similar memory from his box)

Rachel: Great, I'll let you know how it was when I get back!

It's as simple as that! If you don't know what's in somebody's "memory box", then it's the perfect time to use the present perfect.


Past simple - details

Now, let's analyze a different situation, when you do know what's in their "memory box", but you want more information:

Mike: Oh hi Rachel! When did you get back from Bali?

(He uses the PAST SIMPLE to form a question because he knows she went to Bali)

Rachel: I got home last Friday, but I took a few extra days to get over my jet lag.

Mike: Good call. Did you have fun?

Rachel: It was great! The weather was beautiful and I disconnected completely from real life!

(She gives all the details in the PAST SIMPLE. We generally use the present perfect to give general information and the past simple to give more specific details.)

Mike: Lucky you. Maybe I'll plan my next holiday there.

Rachel: What did you do for your holiday?

(She asks a question in the PAST SIMPLE because she assumes or knows that Mike also went on holiday)

Mike: Nothing special, I went to Scotland to do some sightseeing and hiking.


So now you have one extra small talk scenario to use this summer. A nice distraction from the heat, Covid, the war and just the world in general is always nice, right? Leave a comment on where you're going or where you've already been this year on holiday!

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