I have some troubles with tenses after "I've never met ...". Should it be in past or present? Or it doesn't really matter and I can go with whatever I feel like?

Some examples from Google:

I've never met a Haitian who isn't strong


I've never met a funny person who wasn't smart


1 Answer 1


Either is fine. This is a common question related to the present perfect, and isn't specific to "I've never met". For example:

I've always thought that funny people were/are smart.

I would say that the past tense is more common with "I've never met", since you're referring to people you have met in the past -- but this contrasts with the way English speakers like to use the present tense to talk about people who are still alive.

Most funny people I've known are also pretty smart.

Which is to say, the past tense slightly implies they might not still be alive. For example:

The men in my family always were at risk for heart disease.

In this sentence there's a subtle nuance that some of these men died from heart-related ailments. If I want to avoid this implication, I could say:

The men in my family are at risk for heart disease.

Still, don't overthink it. Sometimes people say things to convey subtle meanings. Sometimes people say what's most common without thinking too deeply about it.

I've never met an English student who wasn't frequently confused by all these seemingly contradictory language "rules".

  • Thank you for such a detailed answer. So if I'm, for example, talking about people I've never met, it's better to use past, because I can't imply whether they are alive or dead since I've never met them, right?
    – Veritazium
    Apr 7, 2018 at 14:36
  • @XDeath Well, when you say "I've never met an X who wasn't Y", you are actually saying, "I've met a lot of Xs and all of them were Y". So yes, you can use the past tense to describe people you have met in the past. However, if you are really talking about some quality of people you have never met, use the subjunctive: "I've never met a computer programmer, but if I did I imagine he would be a fan of Star Trek"
    – Andrew
    Apr 7, 2018 at 14:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .