Yesterday evening I was at Portomaso Cafe with my wife, watching her team – Brazil – play against Chile in the knockout stage of the World Cup. Towards the end of the second half, a large group formed around the adjacent tables. They were a bit loud so even though my eyes were on the TV screen, one ear was on the match commentary while another was following their conversation.
It was precisely when Brazil where on the attack in search of the winning goal that I was attacked by one of the most common errors I hear in the classroom. Talking about Australia, one of people said, “We’ve been to Australia 18 years ago“, a sentence that is as inaccurate as Neymar’s attempt to score was. ‘ve been and ago are not teammates in the English language. Putting them in the same sentence is a foul and you will be shown the yellow card for using them together.
With ago, it’s better to use the past tense ⇒ We went to Adelaide 18 years ago.
It’s also possible to drop the time expression ⇒ We‘ve been to Adelaide.
For the same reason, these sentences are also wrong:
- The students have arrived in Malta a week ago.
- She has left the office 10 minutes ago.
The correct forms are:
- The students arrived in Malta a week ago / The students have arrived.
- She left the office 10 minutes ago / She has left the office.
Do not use the Present Perfect (has been, have gone, has watched, …) with the word “ago”.