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Using ever

Posted by Manjusha; You are here: Home --> Practical English English --> Using ever

Ever means ‘at any time’. It is used mainly in questions.

  • Do you ever wish you were rich? (= at any time)
  • Have you ever been to England? (= at any time up to the present)
  • He has been unhappy ever since he left home. (= at all times)
Ever and always

Ever is not normally used to mean ‘always’.

  • I shall always remember you. (= NOT I shall ever …)

But note that ever means ‘always’ in a few expressions like forever, ever since, ever after and Yours ever.

  • I will love you forever.
  • Yours ever. (ending a letter to an intimate friend)
Use

Ever is used mainly in questions. It is also possible in negative clauses, but never is more common than not ever.

  • Have you ever seen a whale?
  • I don’t ever want to talk to him again. (OR I never want to talk to him again.)

Ever is also used after if and other words that express a negative idea (like hardly or nobody)

  • Nobody ever visits them.
Ever in affirmative clauses

Ever is used in affirmative clauses after superlatives and only.

  • He is the oldest man ever to have climbed Everest.
  • She is the only woman ever to have won this award.
Ever and before

Ever and before can both be used to mean ‘at any time in the past’, but there is a slight difference. Before refers to a present event, and asks whether it has happened at another time; ever does not refer to a present event.

  • Have you been to England before? (The hearer is probably in England.)
  • Have you ever been to England? (The hearer is not in England.)

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