ever / never

Carlos Bergante

Member
Spanish, Spain
Hi everyone!

I have a question regarding the use of 'never' and 'ever'. This would be: why do people say "He's the most beautiful man I've EVER heard of" but "I've NEVER heard of him". It's quite a doubt that came to my mind when I was teaching and that I couldn't solve. Thanks in advance and regards from sunny Barcelona.
 
  • Tiggie7384

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    In the first phrase, the person is saying that they HAVE heard of the person, therefore the positive "ever" is used to indicate in all their life this is the most beautiful man they have heard of.

    In the second phrase, the person is saying that they HAVE NOT heard of the person, therefore the negative "never" is used to indicate in all of their life they have not heard of this man.

    Does that help?
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    'Ever' is a so-called negative polarity item. That means it's not used in simple positive sentences:

    :cross:I have ever heard of him.

    It's used in questions, in conditionals, and in sentences with some kind of negative word (including the likes of 'only', 'scarcely', 'seldom'):

    Have you ever heard of him?
    If I had ever heard of him I would tell you.
    He is no-one I have ever heard of.
    Only once have I ever heard his name spoken.

    As your original sentence shows, it's also used with superlatives: It's the biggest ever; She's the most famous writer ever to visit this shop.
     
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