Tell me please which tense is the most apt to use in the following context.

Rob, do you often drink soft drinks? I haven't thought about that.

Rob, do you often drink soft drinks? I hadn't thought about that.

I heard native English speakers use the present perfect in similar contexts. But wouldn't it be more grammatically appropriate to use the past perfect. Because Rob hadn't thought about that before the other person asked him a question. If both sentence equally correct, explain me why please.

  • Most native speakers would use the Present Perfect form (#1 above) in such contexts, if only because it's a bit "simpler" than Past Perfect (#2) - and unlike learners, native speakers usually avoid using more complex tense forms if they have a choice. But in principle there's a semantic difference. Present Perfect implies I still don't have any idea [and I may be unable to answer], whereas Past Perfect implies [in response to your question] I've just given it some thought [and I'm about to give you my answer]. In practice though, that's not normally a meaningful difference. Jun 20, 2019 at 14:47
  • Is the response being given by Rob? It would be exceedingly strange for the same person to follow up their question with the second sentence. That, rather than it, also seems a bit odd. Jun 20, 2019 at 14:49
  • @JasonBassford: I don't think it makes any difference whether the second sentence is a continuation from Rob or a response. For the purposes of differentiating Past and Present Perfect here, to the extent that there is a difference of nuance / idiomacy, it's the same issue regardless of who's speaking that line. And it's not that odd to mention that you never previously gave a thought to what someone else "often does", at the same time as actually asking them. Jun 20, 2019 at 15:03
  • 1
    @FumbleFingers Never use the perfect unless you really need it. ;-) Imo, I never thought about it will do. Jun 20, 2019 at 15:10
  • @MvLog: (FumbleFingers' Perfect Truism)[ell.stackexchange.com/a/5666/126] Hoist by my own petard! To be honest, I reckon even if I did use what looks like "Simple Past" there, I'd be half-way to thinking I'd simply "elided / not enunciated" I've instead of plain I. Jun 20, 2019 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


As M.Swan put it:

In an informal style, simple past tenses are sometimes possible with always, ever and never when they refer to 'time up to now'.
I always knew I could trust you. (or I've always known ... )
Did you ever see anything like that before? (or Have you ever seen ... ?)

The past perfect is of little use here unless it is used for the coordination of past events: I had never thought about it until yesterday's accident.

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