Hi everybody!

Here's another question posed by one my students.

I had explained the difference between "been to" and "gone to", saying that we use "been to" when the person we are referring to, has been to a place and has come back, as in: "He's been to London 3 times". This means that he went there, came back and is not in London NOW.

Then, we use "gone to" to say that somebody has gone to a place and is still there (the person hasn't come back yet), as in: "He's gone to the Head office."(that's why he is not here NOW).

So, one of them asked me what would be the right option if I were in London (as a tourist, I'm not from London) and a Londoner asked me this question: "How many times have you been to London?" The rule wouldn't apply in this case, since I haven't come back and I'm still there. The thing is that I think a Londoner would ask the question differently, maybe replacing "to" by "in", since London is where they are now. So, my options are:

1. "How many times have you been in London?"

2. "How many times have you come to London (before)?" I think "come" solves the problem quite neatly.

3. With a difference in meaning "Is this your first visit / trip to London?", "Have you been here before?"

Thanks a lot!

I don't think that the various verb phrases are so easily sortable, Mara-- individual and regional preferences come too much into play. I, for instance, could easily ask a student whether s/he has ever been to / gone to Saipan, with no difference in meaning (= has s/he ever visited Saipan). The same holds true for in/to: How many times have you been to/in // come to Yokohama?-- these options too seem equally natural to me (though other speakers may have preferences).

Your other options (#3) are, of course, viable.
Hello Riglos

I'd probably say "How many times have you been to London?"

Of your other options:

1. Not exactly wrong; you can call home and say "I'm in London!", for instance. But in your context, you need a) a sense of motion b) "something to count": "be + to" gives you "occasions", but "be + in" isn't really countable.

2. It's ok, but a little stiff and unnatural. It seems overly precise.

3. Fine; but it might seem slightly patronising, if the other person were a "seasoned traveller".