Can someone please tell me what the difference is between the two phrases: Have not and Have never?

As far as I know, "have not" is usually used to mean that something has not happened in a period while "have never" means that it happened at no time in the past.

However, I am wondering if we can use "have never" when the time period we use is the entire period of an event.

Example 1:

A: Have you ever seen any beggars in this neighborhood? B: No, I have never seen one in this neighborhood in the past 25 years. (B has been living in this neighborhood for 25 years.)

Example 2 The defeat of Japan in 1945 was something the country had never experienced in the past 2500 years. (It's the length of the whole history of the country)

Example 3 The appearance of humans was something that had never happened on this planet in the previous three billion years.

However, when it comes to a period of time that is short or not the whole time span of an event, we should use "have not".

Example 4 A: Have you seen this guy in the past six months? B: No, I haven't seen anyone like this in the past six months.

Example 5 I have not played basketball for a month.

I have two questions here

  1. Do I distinguish the two phrases correctly?

  2. Can we ever use "ever" in a sentence that states a period of time: For example, can we change Example 4 to "A: Have you ever seen this guy in the past six months?" B: No, I have never seen this guy in the past six months"

Thanks in advance. Any advice is welcome!

  • The difference is one of emphasis. "Have never" is merely a stronger assertion than "have not." There is really no difference in meaning in the cases you mention.
    – Robusto
    Jan 13 '19 at 15:55
  • Note, however, that "have never" is often used to refer to something that occurs (or doesn't) over a period of time.
    – Robusto
    Jan 13 '19 at 16:03

Have not can be used for something that you didn't do at a certain time,

e.g (I have not done the homework) this could be a simple one time occurrence and every time previously you have done it

Using the other example,

(I have never done the maths homework) for all the time you have been doing maths you never completed the homework once.

[As a side note, I have not can be used with yet (I have not done the Maths homework yet) to indicate you are probably going to do it in the future, you can't use I have never with yet.]

[Another side note, you can use "I have never" as a sort of exaggeration (usually adding ever, so "never ever", as in:

Girlfriend - Did you lie to me?

Boyfriend - I have never ever lied to you?

Obviously, everyone lies to people at some point, so it was used as emphasis]

I hope this helped :3

  • <3
  • Thank you for replying. What about: Have you ever seen this guy in the past two months? vs Have you seen this guy in the past two months? and the responses: No I have not seen this guy in the past two months vs No I have never seen this guy in the past two months. What I am confused about is whether "have never" and "have ever" can be used when there is a sepcific period of time invovled.
    – Chien Te Lu
    Jan 13 '19 at 16:24
  • @ChienTeLu "Have you seen this guy in the past two months" is the correct one. Since ever in that context basically means, in your whole life. To make the sentence correct with ever it would be "Did you ever see this guy?"
    – Alex Collins
    Jan 13 '19 at 16:30
  • @ChienTeLu In terms of have not and have never, Have not doesn't include a time so you can add one if you wish. Have never already has a time period in it (ever = anytime during the whole time you have been alive)
    – Alex Collins
    Jan 13 '19 at 16:35
  • What if the period of time is actually the time span of the whole event as I have mentioned in the article? For example, "The destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima was something Japan had never experienced in the past 2500 years" and "I have never seen any beggars in this town in the past 50 years" (suppose I have been living here for 50 years")
    – Chien Te Lu
    Jan 13 '19 at 16:35
  • @ChienTeLu "I have not seen any beggars in this town in the 50 years I've been living here" is how I would say the last sentence if you want to make it know you've been living there , if not then "I have not seen any beggars in this town for the last 50 years" sounds right. You couldn't use I have never since, you have, it was just 50 years ago. I hope I made sense there :)
    – Alex Collins
    Jan 13 '19 at 16:44

You can use "never" with a period of time, if you have a good reason to do so. It emphasizes the fact that something did not happen during a period of time, not even once, perhaps surprisingly.

  • I didn't see Jane at the beach yesterday. (Normal, generic)
  • I never saw Jane at the beach yesterday. (Maybe I usually see her more than once, every day, so maybe it's surprising that I didn't see her yesterday, not even once).

Also see this question, which basically seems to be the same as yours: https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/49066/is-i-never-saw-him-yesterday-grammatical

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