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Introduction

English has something of a reputation for being an easy language; and it is certainly true that it does not have the complexities of the article system in German or the honorific system in Korean, in which the speaker must choose words according to several levels of familiarity with the person spoken to or about. But in fact as soon as the learner of English progresses beyond basic levels, it quickly becomes clear that the English language is full of difficulties and inconsistencies. In each of the following newsletters I will examine one area of difficulty for learners of English and set a series of questions to test their knowledge.

The present perfect tense will be the subject of one of my later articles, but as a brief taste of what is to come, you might like to consider the following questions:

What is the difference in meaning between the statements: She's gone to the bank and She's been to the bank? And what is the only situation in which it would be normal to use the sentence : I've gone to the bank ?


Answers

You can only use the statement: She's gone to the bank. if she is not here now; in other words she is either on the way to or from the bank or still at the bank.

She's been to the bank means that she is here now, having returned from the bank.

From this explanation it follows that the statement: I’ve gone to the bank! doesn't make sense when said. The only situation in which it is possible is as a written note which you leave to tell someone where you are.


Note 1: English learners make different kinds of "mistake" when using the language. It is important to have an understanding of these mistake types when reading the grammar discussions on this part of the website. There is an explanation on the page entitled Error types.

Note 2: English has a large variety of dialects with distinctive vocabularies, spellings, pronunciations, and even grammars. I am British English native speaker, who grew up speaking the BE dialect known as Received Pronunciation. The articles in this series are written from this perspective; consequently, some of the assertions made in these pages will not necessarily hold true in different English dialects.


Frankfurt International School: Art and artists. (Click to see at full size.)