I have recently read:

I never saw this movie (instead of "I have never seen this movie")

I believe that the Present Perfect is usually used with the adverb "never" because the event can still happen in the present. Example: I have never talked to my biological father (exception: I never talked to my biological father and I found out today that he is dead). Is that correct?

In which context the sentence in question could be correct with the Simple Past?

| improve this question | | | | |

It is easy to find a context for that sentence. The idea is that verbs in Present Perfect tell us something about the present, and verbs in Past Simple tell us something about the past.

'Never' doesn't necessarily trigger the use of Present Perfect, because it can refer to the past and future, too, like in "I will never marry you!"

As for the 'never' in a past tense, just imagine that someone tells you about things that are gone, that are not connected with the present. For example, Jack tells about his childhood:

As a child, I never saw this movie, although it was quite famous then. Only last year I saw it for the first time.

| improve this answer | | | | |
  • Could it be As a child I had never seen this movie although it was quite famous...because this statement had been true until last year when he saw it – user5577 Aug 22 '19 at 9:26
  • @user5577 - I don't think so. With Past Perfect there has got to be a moment in the past before which the statement was true, like in "I had never seen that film before my dad bought a VHS cassette with it." In my example, "as a child" is no way a moment. The next sentence is about a quite different time plane, which is not connected with Jack's childhood. Both sentences use Past Simple as it is a usual way when enumerating things that happened one after another, or when telling a story, like in "I woke up, got up, had breakfast, and went to the office." – Yellow Sky Aug 22 '19 at 11:15
  • "to be connected with the present" seems vague and subjective to me. For instance, I could say: As a child, I never saw/have seen this movie, and I still feel sad for that. Have you meant specifically that the event could still happen in the explicit/implicit time period of the sentence ? – Alan Evangelista Aug 22 '19 at 13:10
  • Before last year, I had not seen that movie in my childhood. Past last year past of the past before last yearb – user5577 Aug 22 '19 at 13:11
  • @AlanEvangelista - If you say "As a child, I never have seen this movie", it will mean you are still a child. If your childhood is in the past, you cannot use a present tense to speak about it, you'll need a past tense. And yes, subjective, because we say what we want, not what the language "demands" (as we imagine it), it is we that use the language, not the language that uses us. – Yellow Sky Aug 22 '19 at 15:03

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.