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(1) I have never been tricked while I was shopping at ABC. (mixed tenses, okay)

(2) I have been tricked a few times while I was shopping at ABC. (a tense mismatch, wrong)

(3) I was tricked a few times while I was shopping at ABC. (a tense agreement, okay)

(4) Have you ever seen a tornado while you were driving to work? (mixed tenses, okay)

(5) Have you ever seen a tornado while you have been driving to work? (sounds awkward)

My friends and I have spent a lot of time discussing whether or not "ever" and "never" allow mixed tenses in the same sentence.

Most of us think "never" and "ever" allow a tense shift because these words indicate an event happening in the past, leading up to the present. So, it is okay to have mixed tenses (present perfect and simple past) in (1) and (4). (3) is certainly correct because the simple past is used in the whole sentence. However, the mismatched tenses in (2) make it grammatically wrong and the present perfect in the dependent clause of (5) "while I have been..." makes it sound odd.

Do you agree with us?

  • 1) is correct, but it sounds weird. It indicates that "shopping at ABC" is a generic event, & being tricked has never occurred. I don't see anything wrong with 2); it indicates that on a few specific instances, you were tricked while shopping at ABC. Your question is confusing because not all of your sentences include either "ever" or "never"; "ever" is used to indicate, or determine, if an event has occurred or will occur ("Have you ever..." "Will you ever..."). "Never" used to indicate that something has not happened and will not happen in the future ("Have you never..." "I will never...") – John Doe Feb 27 at 0:13
  • I expanded my answer to comment your thoughts at the end of the question. – Jan Feb 27 at 17:20
-1

All of your examples show continuous actions in the past that were interrupted by short events in the past. In such case you use the past continuous (progressive) tense (for the ongoing action) + past simple tense (for the interrupting action).

The past continuous (also called past progressive) is a verb tense which is used to show that an ongoing past action was happening at a specific moment of interruption, or that two ongoing actions were happening at the same time. (Englishpage.com).

So, only this example is correct:

(3) I was tricked a few times while I was shopping at ABC.

About your thoughts:

Most of us think "never" and "ever" allow a tense shift because these words indicate an event happening in the past, leading up to the present.

Both never and ever can be used in many tenses in the past, present and future.

So, it is okay to have mixed tenses (present perfect and simple past) in (1) and (4).

In the sentence 1: I have never been tricked while I was shopping at ABC. the first part (have been tricked) is in present perfect progressive, and the second part (was shopping) in in past progressive.

In the sentence 4: Have you ever seen a tornado while you were driving to work?, there is also present perfect progressive, and past progressive.

These tenses do not go together, because, when the clauses in each sentence are connected by "while," past continuous can go only with past continuous or with past simple.

(3) is certainly correct because the simple past is used in the whole sentence.

The sentence: I was tricked a few times while I was shopping at ABC. is correct and the tenses used are past simple and past progressive.

However, the mismatched tenses in (2) make it grammatically wrong

The sentence 2: I have been tricked a few times while I was shopping at ABC. uses the same tenses as the sentence 1 I have never been tricked while I was shopping at ABC. and they are both wrong as explained above.

and the present perfect in the dependent clause of (5) "while I have been..." makes it sound odd.

The sentence 5: Have you ever seen a tornado while you have been driving to work? uses present perfect simple in the first part and present perfect continuous in the second part and I don't think these tenses can go together when connected with "while."

In conclusion: When a sentence contains a clause in past progressive that starts with "while," the other clause can be only in past progressive or past simple tense. (Check: EnglishPage, Education First). But you can use "never" or "ever" in sentences with mixed tenses, not only in the past, but also in the present and future tenses.

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  • I disagree with your assessment that only 3) is correct, and you didn't answer what (it seems like) the root of the question was: the nature of the difference between "ever" and "never". – John Doe Feb 27 at 16:28
  • I expanded the answer to show that in the 5 example sentences the problem is not in "never" or "ever" but in sentences that contain clauses in past progressive tense that start with "while" and mixing them with clauses in other tenses. I still believe only 3 is correct. – Jan Feb 27 at 17:32
  • Example 3 is a "pajamas" sentence. ("How he got in my pajamas I'll never know.") It seems to say that, during this single time I was shopping at ABC, I got tricked several times. – puppetsock Feb 27 at 18:13
  • @puppetsock, I'm not sure if I understand you. Are you referring to this: 3) I was tricked a few times while I was shopping at ABC. ? – Jan Feb 27 at 18:15
  • Yes. I was tricked a few times while I was shopping at ABC. It seems to say that, during the single time shopping at ABC, I was tricked a few times. – puppetsock Feb 27 at 18:16

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