Has been to: a present perfect tense?

It is too early to tell whether [Martin Schulz’s] popularity is a “soap bubble” destined to pop, says Manfred Güllner of Forsa, another polling firm. As the former president of the European Parliament, Mr Schulz is well-known in Brussels, but he is still fresh in Berlin, untainted by domestic politics.

Yet his effect has been to awaken the base of a party that, like its centre-left cousins elsewhere in Europe, seemed to have lost its way. The SPD last won an election in 1998, when Gerhard Schröder became chancellor.


Here is my question.

The phrase “has been to” here is in present perfect tense, but this phrase is more commonly used equally as “has gone to” in sentence like “I have been to visit my mother twice this month”. So, to express an “effect ” which has already happened, why bother the writer using the phrase “has been to awaken ” rather than using the more common expression “has awakened” to indicate a present perfect tense?

Answer

HAVE been is NOT “more commonly” used in the sense you describe. It is ordinarily a simple copula.

You may be confused by ellipsis here, and the dual senses to may have. In the perfect idiom HAVE been to X, meaning “HAVE gone to X and returned”, the to X is a locative PP headed by the preposition to:

I’ve been to London to visit the Queen.
I’ve been to Princeton for a conference.

In the example you give, “I’ve been to visit my mother”, the locative is omitted because it’s recoverable from context, semantically overlapping the marked infinitival of purpose to visit

. We infer that the to destination is the mother’s residence. Ordinarily, however, the locative is required to “constitute” the idiom.

In any case, I don’t think any native speaker would even momentarily take has been to mean “The effect has gone [somewhere] and returned”. The idiom ordinarily licenses only ‘agentive’ subjects: an effect is not capable of “going” somewhere. Similarly, has awakened cannot be substituted, because an effect is not capable of “awakening” the base of a party: the awakening is the effect.

Consequently the default parsing of The effect has been is as the simple copula, and what follows is readily taken to be an infinitival predicative complement.


I suspect from your title question that you may also be distracted by the German use of SEIN as a perfect auxiliary with verbs of motion. English used to have the same construction, but this fell out of use 300 years ago; in Present-Day English only HAVE is permitted as a perfect auxiliary.

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Source : Link , Question Author : sdasd tont , Answer Author : StoneyB on hiatus

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