I have a question related to the usage of 'never'. I have heard native speakers use 'never' when they want to negate something emphatically. And they use 'never' instead of "did not verb1" to negate.

Here are a couple of example sentences:

Me: Hey john, did you told Shyam that you dislike me? 
John: It's a lie. I never said/did not say that.

To me "did not say" is more grammatically correct but I often hear native speakers use 'never' in this kind of context. I would not use "present perfect tense" in the context as I was referring a specific event in the past.

  • never went/did not go to Australia when I was a child but after getting a job I went there last year.

I think both forms can be used in the above context.

  • never was a/was not a good student when I was in school but I was good at drawing.

I think the "never was" is more emphatic but both forms can be used. Can I use never instead of "did not verb1"  when I want to negate specific events in past emphatically? Native speakers, I want your opinions.

  • They're both grammatically correct; there isn't one that's "more grammatically correct" than the other.
    – stangdon
    Dec 20, 2017 at 18:19
  • I learned this rule: With "never", you usually use the present perfect. So it should be "It's a lie. I've never said that." It does however sound unnatural to me; I think here's an exception to that rule.
    – Cacambo
    Jan 1, 2020 at 19:06
  • Please note that "did you told" in your example is not correct. You probably mean either "have you told" or "did you tell".
    – Cacambo
    Jan 1, 2020 at 19:07
  • @Cacambo I've never heard that rule. Both "I have never done that" and "I never did that" are correct. Oct 8, 2020 at 22:30

2 Answers 2


I never said that is perfectly normal for the literal case: "there is no occasion in the past when I ever said that". In this use I have never said that is more likely, unless the reference is to a time period that is now past. That sentence is rather unusual, but it can come up in an exchange like

A. When we worked at XYZ, people used to say that my desk was always messy.
B. I never said that.

But you are right that colloquially, never is often used for an emphatic denial of a single instance. In this sense, I never said that is an emphatic version of I didn't say that.


Either one can be used in most cases, but sometimes one fits better to the situation than the other. To use your example, if you said I never went to Australia when I was a child but after getting a job I went there last year, this means that, quite simply, you have not been to the country. If you used instead I did not go, this may be interpreted with another context, for example, if you didn't go but were taken against your will, or maybe there was an opportunity to go that you didn't take, but now you did after getting a job.

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