After you’ve finished a conversation, something that you might say to them is “It’s been nice talking to you” or perhaps you would say “It was nice talking to you”.
For those grammar snobs out there, both of them are grammatically correct.
It was nice talking to you. As a general rule “It’s been nice” should be used for face to face conversations, whereas “It was nice” should be used after you’ve both gone your separate ways.
In this article, we’ll be delving into the differences between these two sentences, and understanding why these phrases with the same meaning should be used in different circumstances.
Table of Contents
Before we can truly understand the difference between the phrases, we need to look at where certain words come from. Starting with “was”.
It’s a simple word, and most of you probably have never thought of it’s origin. This word actually has Proto-Indo-European roots.
Originating from the word “wes”, which means to remain, it later became “wesen” (being), and became “wesan” in Old English, before becoming “was” in today’s English.
The definition of “was” is the past tense of “Is”. And “is” simply means to exist.
Whilst not essential, understanding where this word comes from, can help us to understand the correct context in which to use it.
Likewise to “is”, the word “be” simply means to exist or to occur. The word Been is the past tense of the word be.
The word be comes from the Proto-Germanic word “bi” (near). Over time, this word came to change meaning, until it came to mean exist/occur.
Present Perfect Progressive
Notice how both was and been are written in the past tense. Despite this, the phrase “has been” is considered to be present continuous. Yes, a phrase with a past tense word in there is thought of as present tense phrase. The English language is odd.
If you say the phrase “It has been nice talking to you”, you are speaking in the present tense. You’re speaking about what’s happening at the moment.
But the phrase is actually written in a specific type of present tense. To be precise it’s written in the “Present perfect progressive”.
The origin of the action is in the past, however, the action is still happening at the moment.
The structure of such sentences usually follows a pattern of Subject, has/have been, verb, time frame/object.
For example, “I have been eating since last night”. I is the subject, have been, eating is the verb, and last night is a time frame.
With the phrase “It has been nice talking to you”. It is the subject, has been, nice (an adjective which diverts from the usual structure but doesn’t break the rule), talking to (verb), you (object).
The present perfect progressive is a bit of a confusing tense because it’s a combination of the past tense and the present tense, but technically comes under the umbrella of present tense.
By using this phrase, you’ll be referring to the fact that the conversation, whilst close to the end, is still occurring.
“It was nice talking to you” is a bit easier to understand.
This sentence is written in the past simple tense. The past simple means we’re talking about a period of time in the past, but it could mean at any time in the past.
You can tell someone it was nice talking to them one hour or one decade after the conversation has ended.
If you’re using a regular verb, such as kick, then making a past simple sentence is easy. You simply add a ed to the end, “He kicked the ball”.
Words that end in e simply have a d added, “She biked to Wales”.
Words that end in y have the y replaced with ied, “They studied hard for the exam”.
However, when you’re working with irregular verbs, such as fly or is, you will need to know what the past tense of that word is, as there is no rule to determine how to find it.
You wouldn’t say flyed or ised. Instead, you would say “flew” and “was”.
When you’re using the word “was” you’re saying that the event was in the past and has now come to an end.
Face to Face
Let’s say you’re talking to somebody face to face. You look at the time, and realise you need to go or you’ll miss your train.
In this scenario, you should say “It’s been nice talking to you”. By talking in the present perfect progressive, you know that this conversation happened in the past, and is still happening in the present.
This way you can leave on good terms, use the correct grammar, and catch your train on time. That’s what I would call a win win win situation.
But if you do get it wrong, I doubt anyone would mind too much.
Now in a different situation. You’ve just got back from the pub where you made a new friend, your colleagues brother.
You send him a text message that reads “It was nice talking to you”.
By using the past simple tense, you understand that the event you’re talking about happened in the past, and has since come to an end.
Because of the ambiguity of time in that phrase, it would work for when you get home from the pub, but also if he were to text you in a years time saying “What did you think of our last meeting?” you could still say “It was nice talking to you”.
Before reading this article, you likely thought that “It’s been nice talking to you” and “It was nice talking to you” are different ways of saying the same phrase.
However, now you understand that “It’s been nice” is written in the present perfect progressive tense and should be said when you want to end a conversation.
And “It was nice” is written in the past tense and should be said after the conversation is finished.
Getting it wrong won’t make you seem rude but getting it right will make you seem like you know about grammar.