These sentences have made me confused. What is the correct answer to say, as an example:

What is the biggest mistake...

  1. ... you ever made?
  2. ... you have ever made?

Some examples taken from the web


  • What is the biggest mistake you ever made in gaming? source
  • What is the biggest mistake you ever made? source
  • What is the biggest mistake you ever made as an entrepreneur? source


  • What is the biggest mistake you have ever made in your life? source
  • What's the biggest mistake you have ever made? source
  • What's The Biggest Mistake You Have Ever Made? source

Which one is correct? Because I often hear that people say both of them, what is the difference?

Also can we say you ever make as present indication? Can you please provide the basic rule of these issues?

3 Answers 3


I am an English native speaker.

  1. Both sentences have exactly the same meaning. In that sense both are correct.

  2. What are the differences? Subtle.

The first is more colloquial or "natural". The "have" doesn't add any extra meaning for an English speaker and so would normally be dropped. At most you'd hear "...you've ever made".

At the risk of stereotyping, I'd say that American English tends more to these shorter, clearer constructions. British English generally favours the "correct" versions.

The second sentence is "more correct" and should be used in a formal context.

English is grammatically ambivalent enough that in most contexts (especially the one implied here) you could use the version that gives the best impact (the first one) and not get pedantic over grammar rules.

It probably also adds to the confusion that "made" is the shorter past tense and it doesn't change in the longer past tense ("to have made").

"I made the changes" versus "I've made the changes": the change in tense does not add a whole lot for most pragmatic circumstances.

With some other verbs (I sang vs. I have sung) you can see the difference immediately but with "to make" it's not obvious.

  1. About "ever": this implies some sort of limits to the time scope (c.f. the opposite, "never"!) so by definition you can use it only in the past or future tenses e.g. "The biggest mistake I [will] ever make".

As noted above, English tends to emphasise the pragmatics (conveying meaning) over grammar (finding constructions that always convey the same menaing), so the "will" in the above sentence is optional; this might confuse anyone who thinks that future tense always has to be signified explicitly.


To me, option 1 means that the time frame under consideration has ended; option 2 means that it has not yet ended.


The second is correct. The contraction "You've ever made" expands to "You have ever made". The verb have is useful there.

If, in both cases, you took out the adverb "ever" then first the first option you get "...mistake you made" which doesn't sound quite right, compared "...mistake you have made"

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