Susan:Good night, Harry. Have a safe trip home.
[She closes the door. A moment later there is a loud sound in the hall. Susan opens the door.] Are you all right?
Harry:[He fell over the umbrella stand, and now he is picking it up.] Sorry.
Susan:[She smiles.] I never liked that umbrella stand. Good night, Harry.

What does "I never liked that umbrella stand." mean?
As I know, never has two meanings:
1.not ever; at no time; not at any time:
2.not at all; absolutely not:

These confuse me a lot. To my understanding, this sentence could have several meanings.

1.I never like that umbrella stand.(never = not at all)
I don't like that umbrella stand at all.

2.I never liked that umbrella stand.(never = not at all)
I didn't like that umbrella stand at all.(I don't know if the past simple could be used here, if so, what does it mean in the above context? )

3.I have never liked that umbrella stand.(never = not ever)
I haven't liked that umbrella stand at any time before.

4.I never liked that umbrella stand.(never = not ever)
Same as No.3 but express the present perfect tense in the AE way.

Especially for the No.2 and the No.4, I don't know which one is correct.

  • 1
    You're trying to tease out nuances that are kind of irrelevant to the meaning. As dan04 answers, it's an expression used to minimize a potentially embarrassing situation. Either meaning for "never" works here. The real meaning is just that the item isn't important to you so the other person doesn't need to feel bad for breaking it.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 1:21

2 Answers 2


"I never liked it (anyway)" is an idiomatic, somewhat-joking way to forgive a person for breaking something you own. It's like saying "Hey, you did me a favor by getting rid of that ugly piece of crap for me." It's in past tense because the object itself is now a thing of the past.

Though, it does seem a bit unusual to say that in the passage you've quoted: It gives no indication that the umbrella stand was broken, just knocked over.

  • Got it, I wonder what would be the situation that this idiom could be used in present simple tense?
    – preachers
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 15:01
  • 1
    You can only use the present simple if you put umbrella stand in the plural, making it a general statement.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 21:10
  • I think it is her way of apologising for the accident - as if she were saying that she should have got rid of it a long time ago, and then the accident wouldn't have happened. Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 21:46

Always, sometimes, always, never, ever [I misunderstood your question at first]

I like dogs.

I have always liked dogs.

Have you always like dogs?

Yes, I have.

John doesn't like dogs/

But has John ever liked dogs?

No, he has never liked dogs. [when he has seen them in the past]

But not present: I never like dogs [when I see them].

But not: I never like that umbrella stand. [with an s because that would mean it's a general statement, which here would not make sense. Please see "I never like dogs", above. You can make a general statement with the present tense, but not a single object, just once.

  • I never like coffee [when it is served to me.]
  • I never like umbrella stands [when I see them in shops.]

But: I never liked that umbrella stand. OK, because you can never have liked something in the past.

The meaning of these adverbs doesn't change with a tense.

Never (ever, question form) is opposed to always or sometimes.

The meaning does not change. What changes is the verb tense:

I have never liked that umbrella stand, and I continue not to like it now.

General statements about things must take an s in the case of countable nouns except in certain rather literary texts.

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