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I am currently a bit confused about the difference between these 3 phrases:

  1. I have never thought of that. (present perfect)
  2. I had never thought of that. (past perfect)
  3. I never thought of that. (past simple)

Imagine this situation: Someone has just told me they are going to London next week. They ask me if I ever want to visit that city as well. After they've said that to me a) I start thinking about London and if I really want to go there etc. b) I don't think about my future plans regarding London at all even after hearing what my friend has told me.

What tense would I use as my reply in a) and in b)? 1., 2. or 3. ?

What would be the most natural/fastest reaction for a native?

Thanks for any help.

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First of all, your first and third replies have the same meaning. They may be different tenses, however they both mean "Until now, I did not think about it".

Your second reply would not be correct in this context. Your example in the past perfect "I had never thought of that" doesn't mean the same thing as the other two. "I had never" means that you did not think about it before a certain point. Since you have not stated when this point is, it doesn't really make sense. It would be correct if you added a time frame such as:

Before you said it I had never though of that.

Regarding your questions, either the past simple or the present perfect are both likely to be the natural reaction for a native. Often, it is slightly more formal to use "I have never though of that" but that doesn't make it less natural, it just depends on your background.

Personally, I would say "I have never though of that", but I know that many people would use the past simple instead.

  • I've just thought of one single detail, sorry. As you said, the first and the third replies mean "Until now, I did not think about it". Do I understand it correctly when I say it means that i did not think about it until now but after you mentioned it I do? – slovakgirl Aug 21 '17 at 9:49
  • @slovakgirl It means that you didn't think about it until now. Since you are talking about it, it is implied that you are thinking about it now, however the sentence does not implicitly state that. – Aric Aug 21 '17 at 9:50
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As I have been struggling with the same question (I would like to add that in British English the present perfect is used where in American English the past simple is more common. Aric is completely right, except if you say "until now" I would prefer present perfect: I haven`t thought about it until now, because it includes the "now". But maybe that is the BE/AE thing. You understand correctly that it means that now you are thinking about it.

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