Here is the context:

"Before ever writing Chapter one, he will write synopsis after synopsis, for up to a year, ironing out all the wrinkles, developing not just plot and peripeteia (or twists) but character." — Andy Martin, The Independent, 25 Nov. 2016

Did the author use the word ever for emphasis there? If not, then what is it for there? Wouldn't the sentence make more sense without it?


This is an ever/never issue.

Please check out the transformations one can make while keeping the same basic meanings.

  • before ever doing something:
    ever is indirectly related to never. Both are adverbs

The second one can be contrasted with: never doing something

  • Before I ever do any work, I try to have fun.
  • I never do any work before I try to have fun.

"Before ever writing Chapter One, he will etc." is the same as:

"He will never write Chapter One before he does [whatever]

That should help you understand ever, the adverb.

The adverb ever can be used like this regardless of tense.

  • Before ever studying at university, he played professional soccer.
  • He never studied at university before playing professional soccer.

The point my answer is making is the transformation of: Before ever + verbING or verb phrase into subject + verb + never + before +verbING.

Before ever giving the dog a bath, I clean the house.

I never give the dog a bath before I clean the house. [a general statement]

It's easier to grasp using never/ever in the simple present as a general statement about something. That is basic usage that ELLers usually learn in a first-year English course, along with the other common adverbs of frequency: sometimes and always. Of course, there are many more as well.

Ever and never are related to each other: - Do you ever go out after dark? - No, I never go out after dark?

  • Could be rephrased like this? "He always played professional soccer, before studying at university." – Dmytro O'Hope Jun 22 at 7:03
  • Sorry, but this use of "ever" is really hard to grasp – Dmytro O'Hope Jun 22 at 7:03
  • @DmytroO'Hope You are absolutely right about that. It's tricky. Please take another look at the patterns and try to make one up for yourself. In the soccer example, never is not exactly like the never in: I never drink coffee. A general statement. The never applies only to the studying at the university. See? No, it has nothing to do with always. Ever and never are like peas in a pod. [idiom].Do you ever play soccer? No, I never play soccer. – Lambie Jun 22 at 13:58

This is not the first chapter of a particular book but of any book he writes.

Before he ever sits down to the first course, he will scout out the restaurant's kitchen.

Before ever sitting down to the first course, he will scout out the restaurant's kitchen.

To paraphrase, whenever he visits a restaurant he scouts out the kitchen before sitting down to the first course.

ever there could be paraphrased "under any circumstances, at any time"

  • So whar does the word "ever" mean there? – Dmytro O'Hope Oct 6 '18 at 17:00
  • @Dmytro O'Hope. Why do you think ever means something different than its usual meaning? He will write synopsis after synopsis refers to his customary practice. So, whenever he writes a book, he spends time, up to a year, "ironing out all the wrinkles" beforehand. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 7 '18 at 1:05
  • Does it mean always there? It is actually difficult to get it – Dmytro O'Hope Oct 7 '18 at 5:00
  • ever there could be paraphrased "under any circumstances, at any time". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 7 '18 at 11:17
  • This is not an instance of emphatic ever: The meal was ever so tasty. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 7 '18 at 11:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.