Hello,

Please could I have the difference explained between these two sentences:

1) I was in Geneva last week.
2) I went to Geneva last week.

The meaning is the same, but how/when do we use them? Thank-you.

Original Post
The meaning of your sentences is similar.

Sentence 1) emphasizes the situation of your being in Geneva last week. It could come in a dialogue like this:

A: Where were you last week?
B: I was in Geneva last week. I went there in business.

or this:

A: Sorry I wasn't at the meeting last week. I was in Geneva.
B: Yes. I heard.

or this:

A: Were you away for the summer?
B: Yes. I was in Geneva all summer.

"I was..." could be replaced with (not comfortably, but to show the meaning): "My location was..."

On the other hand, sentence 2) emphasizes the situation of your traveling to Geneva:

A: Where were you last week?
B: I went to Geneva. I had to go at the last minute.
A: Oh. How was the trip?
B: Hurried.

or

A: What do you know about this person?
B: Well, I went to Geneva last week to investigate. Couldn't find any information though.

"I went to" might be replaced with "I traveled to."

"I went to Geneva" refers to the beginning of a trip. "I was in Geneva" refers to some time, but not necessarily the beginning. In these sentences from the Collins COBUILD online*, all instances of "went to" refer to the beginning of a trip, from which other things occurred. These sentences could not be replaced with "was/ were in":

...he needed to go to university, so he went to France and embarked on a bout of ...
...on the first lap. And then they went to Portugal ...
...Like the elderly couple who went to Poland and found themselves in a ...
...to add to their family. They went to Romania because the adoption...

Rachel
_______
*http://titania.cobuild.collins.co.uk/cgi-bin/democonc_

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