"Have never been" or "never was", which one is grammatical in the following context?

John: Hey Subha, can you please make pizza for us tonight?
Me: You know I have never been/was never a good cook. We better order it from restaurants.

I think "present perfect" is the correct choice. The reason is that it implies that upto the moment of speaking I am not a good cook. I think never was can fit in the following context:

John: Hey Subha, do you remeber you made pizza last year? It tasted really bad.
Me: You know, John, I never was a good cook.

I am a non native speaker. So sometimes it's very confusing for me to choose the correct tense. Can anyone please provide a good example that help me understand the difference between never was and have never been?


2 Answers 2


Agreeing with the other answer, here. I would say that either convey what you're trying to say. However, in this case "never have been" may be more accurate because you're saying that you still have potential to become a good cook in the future.

On the other hand, the word "was" is typically used to describe something that will not change.

So, "I never was a nice child" as opposed to "I never was a nice person."

You can't change your childhood so it's accurate to say "I never was a nice child".

However, to say "I never was a nice person" gives the impression that you can never change... Which means that you're nearing death -- and have no time left to change -- or that you have no intent to change in the future.

You can use both and a native English speaker will understand what you mean. But, technically, the second sentence implies permanence.

  • 1
    Hi, welcome to ELL SE! Thanks for writing a good, explanatory answer.
    – Eddie Kal
    Dec 5, 2020 at 18:39

To me, "I was never" cannot change: I was never sick as a child. "I never have been" suggests 'up to now.' I have never been to Lima. I have never broken any bones. I have never been arrested....

You can also say, "I was never xxxx until now"; "until this happened".

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