I want to understand the difference between these three sentences:

Fred is the best minister we ever had

means that Fred is still minister but the comparison is with his predecessors and successors.

Fred is the best minister we have ever had

means up to know but can change with his successors.

Fred was the best minister we had

means Fred is not minister now but the comparaison includes his successors.

Am I right?


No, I don't think that your interpretation is correct.

To make things a little clearer, let's replace had with employed.

To say:

Fred is the best minister we have ever employed

suggests that you are still employing Fred as a minister, although it's possible that Fred is still a minister but no longer in your employ.

Your other two examples both indicate that Fred is no longer in your employ, regardless of whether he is still a minister.

To add ever merely adds emphasis. It does not change the meaning of the statement.

Neither of the two examples indicates whether Fred was your last minister or whether you have employed other ministers subsequently. It's possible that he was the first minister and that there have been others; or that he was the last minister; or merely one of several ministers. Your examples leave this open.


None of that matters whether he is current minister or a waiter, nor whether he works for you or someone else in the same professional nor if he even retires. Only that he was best at his duties whether past, current or future.

  • We ever had is a past tense. It says nothing about about possible ministers in the future. For that, we would need to say Fred is the best minster we ever had or will ever have. The same for the other two examples. – Peter Shor Dec 17 '18 at 13:02

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