never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked

Bigbenod

Member
Russian, Ukrainian
Hello everyone !
Please clarify such point for me:

"When anyone asks me how I can best describe my experience of nearly forty years at sea, I merely say uneventful. Of course there have been winter gales and storms and fog and the like, but in all my experience, I have never been in an accident of any sort worth speaking about... I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea... I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked, nor was I in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort....."

Capt. E.J. Smith 1907
Future Master of Titanic


Why is it past simple first and then present perfect ? Personally, I'd say: 'I have never seen a wreck and never have been wrecked'. I got used to see Present Perfect being used with 'never'. Or am I mistaken ?

Thanks in advance


 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I think Smith's use of tenses here is a little odd, Bigbenod.

    It is possible to use the simple past when saying "I never saw X", but people are usually thinking about a specific period of time in the past when they use it that way: During my trip across the country, I never saw a single accident.

    The odd thing about Smith's statement is that he switches tenses: I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked. If Smith was thinking about his past experiences as a captain, it would be ordinary to say: I never saw a wreck and was never in a wreck.

    However, Smith switches from the simple past to the present perfect in the same sentence, which is unusual. Maybe Smith had something on his mind other than grammar when he made the statement. Native speakers and writers aren't always perfect grammarians, you know. :)
     

    Bigbenod

    Member
    Russian, Ukrainian
    If Smith was thinking about his past experiences as a captain, it would be ordinary to say: I never saw a wreck and was never in a wreck.
    Err, and in such case why do we usually say 'I have never been to France' remembering all my past experiences. The Present Perfect Tense is usually used when there is an evidence of past actions in present. Consequently, it would be logical to use present perfect to underline that he had never seen a wreck (and that's why his life is uneventful in the present)
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think Smith's use of tenses here is a little odd, Bigbenod.

    It is possible to use the simple past when saying "I never saw X", but people are usually thinking about a specific period of time in the past when they use it that way: During my trip across the country, I never saw a single accident.
    Usually, but not always. I see a lot of instances of "ever" or "never" + simple past. They tend to be written in a contemporary AE or the BE of a couple of centuries ago.
     
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