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Hi everyone, I have some doubts about which tenses I can use with always/never. In American English, what's the difference between.....( here are some sentences, they are only examples):

  • I have never seen that thing (before) / I never saw that thing (before)
  • I have always/never wanted to be a singer / I always/never wanted to be a singer / Did you always wanted to be a singer?
  • I have never/always known you were American / I never/always knew you were American
  • Before I met her, I had always thought she was slim / Before I met her, I always thought she was slim
  • She has always/never been a great singer / She was always/never a great singer / She always/never was a great singer


  • Could some of them have the same meaning? I read sentences like the above every day.... they are driving me crazy! Emotion: angry Emotion: wink I guess sometimes some people use all that sentences for saying the same thing... but I'm not sure!

    I can't understand if there are some differences in meaning among the above examples, and which tenses I should use in such cases. I need just a brief explanation, I'm sure you'll be clear as always.Emotion: wink

    Thank you very much in advance
Comments  
There is no restriction to any particular tense when using always or never in AmE.
The present perfect version always implies continuation up to the present moment.
The simple past version allows the possibility of adding a phrase like in those days or at that time -- any phrase that places the situation in the past with no continuation into the present. That addition is not possible with the present perfect version.

Where * indicates 'ungrammatical':

*She has always been a great singer in those days.
She was always a great singer in those days.


There are other situations where it is simply customary to say things in a particular way.

I never knew you were an American
is more idiomatic in the U.S. than I have never known you were an American, for example.

When it is a question of knowing how to do something, however, both versions are equally idiomatic, with the usual restriction on the addition of certain adverbials.

I never knew how to program a VCR (in those days).
I have never known how to program a VCR (*in those days).


Unfortunately for the learner, there are always expressions that don't fall into the expected patterns of meaning seen in most cases.

CJ
Thank you very much CalifJim. I knew you yourself would answer... you are the American English Guru in this forum!

I perfectly understand what you said, but I still have a slight doubt. Since I don't want you to spend too much time on my thread ( other learners need your help as well ), I'll ask you some questions that you can answer just saying A,B,C,...etc.

Examples:

  • A -- She always was a great singer.
  • B -- She has always been a great singer.
  • C -- I never saw a dog driving.
  • D -- I have never seen a dog driving.
  • E -- I had never seen a dog driving.


  • Questions:

    1. If I want to say that she has been a great singer up to now, and she is still a great singer, which example can I use between A and B ? Both?
    2. If I want to say that she has been a great singer up to now, and she is still a great singer, which example is more appropriate between A and B ?
    3. If I want to say that she has been a great singer up to now, though the songs on her new CD are so horrible that now I think she's not a great singer any more, which example can I use between A and B ? Both?
    4. If I want to say that she has been a great singer up to now, though the songs on her new CD are so horrible that now I think she's not a great singer any more, which example is more appropriate between A and B ?
    5. I take a look around, and suddenly I see a dog driving. Immediately I say........ Which example can I use between C,D and E? All?
    6. I take a look around, and suddenly I see a dog driving. Immediately I say.........Which example is more appropriate between C, D and E ?
    7. A dog can't drive. So nobody can see a dog driving,and of course I haven't seen one until now. Which example can I use between C and D ? both?
    8. A dog can't drive. So nobody can see a dog driving,and of course I haven't seen one until now. Which example is more appropriate between C and D?


    9. That's all. Thanks a lot.

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1. I would use only B.
2. I would use only B.
3. Neither A nor B is exactly right without more words.
4. Neither A nor B is exactly right without more words.

3. & 4. She always was a great singer, but not anymore. (Stress "was" with your voice.)
She has always been a great singer, but her latest album is horrible.

Of the two, I prefer the second, because you said you wanted "up to now".
Also consider another very common way to say this:

She used to be a great singer; ( I don't know what happened with that last album ).

This one, however, does not give the "up to now" meaning either.

So, now that I think about it more, B is better for these, but further explanation is needed if you want to explain that the singer is no longer as good as before in your opinion.

5. C or D is possible.
6. D is the better of the two in this situation.
7. I would use only D.
8. I would use only D.

In general, I suspect that always and never are more often used with the present perfect, even there is no restriction to their use with the past simple in AmE.

The past simple is common with strong denials:

-- You stole the bread, didn't you?
-- I never did! I swear I never did!


-- You told my secret to Paula, didn't you? (Or You've told my secret to Paula, haven't you?)
-- I never did! I never told anybody anything about it. (Not: I never have.)

CJ
The past tense with always, never, ever can be a colloquial alternative to the present perfective referring to a state or a habit leading up to the present.

1. I always knew you were my friend.

2. I've always known you to be my friend.

3. I always thought you were my friend but now I no longer think so.

Whether #1 means #2 or #3 depends on the context.
Thank you very much CalifJim!

I understand what you said. Now I'm satisfied!Emotion: stick out tongueEmotion: wink Anyway, I think this subject is fairly difficult to understand for a learner at first. We learners always have to study hard, and pay attention to all native speakers says on TV, on the radio.... and that's difficult at first, unfortunately.

See you CalifJim, and thanks again.
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Sorry Teo, I didn't see your post! Thanks to yoo too.

By the way, maybe #1 is more idiomatic than #2. I think people use more often the past perfect with the verb KNOW, rather than the present perfect. That's all guys.

See you
KooyeenSorry Teo, I didn't see your post! Thanks to yoo too.

By the way, maybe #1 is more idiomatic than #2. I think people use more often the past perfect with the verb KNOW, rather than the present perfect. That's all guys.

See you

the past simple