I came across a line in a movie:

You told me your dad was some fighter. You didn't say he was the most famous fighter to ever live.

This is a line spoken by a girl to a guy, and the guy's father is dead. Shouldn't it be:

You didn't say he was the most famous fighter to have ever lived.


You didn't say he was the most famous fighter who ever lived.

What about

You didn't say he was the most famous fighter who has ever lived.

  • Characters in movies have speech that is very often in the vernacular. The scriptwriters use what they like. Not what is good grammar. Unless some character calls for good grammar due to education, etc. If you're looking for good grammar, you have to read novels written about the educated middle or upper classes... – Lambie May 8 '18 at 22:41
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    "...to ever live" actually sounds perfectly idiomatic to this US English speaker. There are plenty of occurrences of it. I think it's just "to live" because it's the infinitive, just like you would say "He was the first to eat" not "He was the first to have eaten", but I don't know of a good reference for it. – stangdon May 8 '18 at 23:40

You're correct that the grammatically correct way to say the sentence would be

You didn't say he was the most famous fighter to have ever lived.

But the character of the girl in the movie apparently doesn't know the correct way to say it, or if she does she's not bothering to say it correctly.

People don't always use standard, correct grammar. Language is different within different regions and groups in English speaking places, like it is in other languages all around the world. Minor differences become normal within a region or group, especially when people speak with their peers. The topic of dialects and regional variation in linguistics is a broad one, but the point is that this girl is speaking colloquially and the movie is portraying her speaking in her natural way.

  • +1 Thank you! I would like to know if all the different versions in my question are idiomatic and/or grammatical. As @stangdon commented, to ever live is idiomatic, but what about others, and which is the most idiomatic and so on. – Eddie Kal May 9 '18 at 23:18
  • @L.Moneta I would say that the other versions you suggested are all more standard. It would be splitting hairs to try to rank them for their level of being idiomatic vs. grammatical. All of them would be understood, and unless you're in a formal situation there's nothing wrong with speaking idiomatically. in fact the idiomatic choice will often make you sound more like a native speaker. – dwilli May 9 '18 at 23:34
  • I think he meant 'idiomatic' in a good way. That's why he said, 'perfectly idiomatic'! – dwilli May 10 '18 at 3:05
  • Yes I know. That's exactly why I would like to know which ones are idiomatic, which are not. – Eddie Kal May 10 '18 at 3:06
  • I see. If anything, 'You didn't say he was the most famous fighter who ever lived.' is more idiomatic than the other two. Also, it would be more casual and natural under most circumstances to say, .."who's ever lived" than "who has ever lived." If you want to speak idiomatically, then I would suggest listening to the people around you and copying their phrases, being careful to notice under what circumstances each one is used. – dwilli May 10 '18 at 4:16

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