Peter is a soldier. He's been fighting in a battle for days. Suppose he's now fatally injured. He's going to die soon. Lying in the arms of his army friend, he says,

I've never had a girlfriend.

I've never been to Italy.

I've never seen my biological father. He's never come to find me.

Should the present perfect be changed to past simple? My reason is he won't have the opportunity to have a girlfriend, go to Italy, or see his father.

So do you think the following sentences are better?

I never had a girlfriend.

I never go to Italy.

I never saw my biological father. He never came to find me.

  • Grammar is literally the last of his worries!
    – James K
    Jan 16, 2022 at 13:21
  • Although there is the story of the last words of the author of a textbook on English Grammar "I am going to ... or about to... die... both ...are... used.........."
    – James K
    Jan 16, 2022 at 13:26
  • 2
    "I never went to Italy"! Jan 16, 2022 at 14:08
  • Do you use the present perfect no matter whether there is a possibility in the future? If he is not likely to have a girlfriend at all in the future, that doesn't affect which tense to use?
    – Stephen
    Jan 16, 2022 at 23:45

1 Answer 1


Both present perfect and past tense are correct in this context.

He doesn't need to be dying, and particularly in American English, the past tense is very natural.

In British English the present perfect is more natural.

You would not use the past tense just because you are dying.

The fact he is fatally injured doesn't enter into the grammar calculations. However he might now use the future to speak of the fact he now can make a confident prediction of the future.

I'm dying. I'm a gonner. I will never have a girlfriend! Oh woe!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .