"Have never seen" or "Had never seen": Which one is correct in the following context? If they are both correct, then which one would you prefer?

  • John, did you see the match between Liverpool and Chelsea yesterday? What a beautiful match it was! It was the best match I have ever seen. I have never seen/had never seen a match like that before.

I asked a similar question yesterday, where the answerer said present perfect and past perfect both are correct. But in this one I have used yesterday and I am not sure whether both tenses can be used or only one is correct.

2 Answers 2


It was the best match I had ever seen. You watched the match yesterday (= past) and up until that point in time you had never seen such a great match.

"have never seen before" refers to the present, up until this moment in time.

  • 5
    In other words, both are correct, but in general they have different meanings. Since the OP's sentence is referring to something that happened "yesterday*, the difference in meaning is probably not important, unless the OP saw an even *better" match "today," after the one the sentence refers to.
    – alephzero
    Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 20:02
  • But when I say "I have never seen a match like that before." It means I have not seen a match like that so far. But how can it be true when I saw a match like that yesterday? That's why I think I should use "past perfect" there. Please someone reply and make it clear to me. Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 5:35
  • Read Ronald's explanation, I think he makes it perfectly clear.
    – anouk
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 10:45

Both are correct. Which tense you prefer depends just on your view of how recent the match is in your mind rather than the time that has elapsed since.

There is a grey area when it comes to reporting events between those that have just occurred and those that occurred some time ago.

Imagine that you witness a dreadful accident at 10.00 on a Monday. On Monday afternoon you might say:

It is the worst accident I have ever seen.

A week later when you met friends you might say:

It was the worst accident I have/had ever seen.

There is no defined point between the time of the accident and the following weekend when is becomes was and have seen becomes had seen.

The same principle holds when you phrase the statement in the negative have never seen and had never seen.

What determines the difference is simply how you regard the event - how recent it is in your mind. At some point we mentally move such events from our immediate experience to past experience and change the tense accordingly when we report them.

So even though you are talking about yesterday's match, it is probably still the best match that you have ever seen. You have never seen a better one.

  • You seem to be answering a slightly different question than what the OP asked. In particular, the word "never" doesn't even appear in your answer. Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 19:43
  • Indeed! I have modified my answer to address the issue. Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 7:33

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