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Question: Which is correct? "Today I've done something that I've never done before." or "Today I've done something I never did before.

Personally, the second one seems the most logical to me since it's something I've just done. However, someone I know insists that "the tenses should be consistent", hence the first example. Which do you think is more natural and can you explain why?

Thanks.

4 Answers 4

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    1. Today I've done something that I've never done before.
    1. Today I've done something I never did before.

Both 1 and 2 are natural, and a fluent speaker might say or write either , and would surely understand either. also possible would be:

    1. Today I've done something that I never did before.
    1. Today I've done something I've never done before.

In sentences 2 and 4, the omitted "that" is implied.

There is no rule of grammar that the verb tense in the first part of the sentence match that in the second part. In fact there can be more glaring mismatches, such as:

    1. Next week, I expect to do something I've never done before.
    1. Last month I did something I've never done before.
    1. Later that year, he would do something that he had never done before.

This is one of many cases where people invent or repeat "rules" that are not rules at all. The supposed rules hold true in many common cases, do people assume they cover all of English, when, in fact, they do not.

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  • Thank you very much. I just have one more question - Does the word "before" influence the preceding tense in this context? For example, I've heard that it's correct to say: "I've never done this until now." Using that logic, is it possible to say: "I've never done this before now."? May 15, 2022 at 20:45
  • There is also: Today I did something that I never did before. Just saying...
    – Lambie
    Dec 1, 2023 at 17:53
  • @englishfreak9 You use before if you are doing it right now: I have never eaten Chinese food before or until now. [that implies you are actually eating it right now.] The issue is with people using before when they are not actually performing the action to which they refer right then and there. They say in conversation: I have never seen a Chinese movie before. and they are not seeing one at that moment. That's the mistake.
    – Lambie
    Dec 1, 2023 at 18:24
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Both are possible.

As a British English speaker, the form with the present perfect seems better. The time when you did (or didn't do) this thing is irrelevant. You are talking about the present and the present perfect seems to fit this context very well.

American English speakers may be more likely to use the past tense in this context. Both perfect and past are grammatically correct, and there is little difference between their meanings (in this case)

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    I would say "something I had never done before" (implying "until I did it today"). May 16, 2022 at 7:16
  • It depends on the context and not which side of the pond you are on. There is also: Today I did something I never did before.
    – Lambie
    Dec 1, 2023 at 17:51
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I'd say, the first sentence is more appropriate—"Today, I've done something that I've never done before."—since the verb tense in the first part of the sentence is in past participle. I'm not saying that the other one is incorrect, it's just that for me the first one is "more appropriate". I can say that the verb tense of the first part is in past participle since "done" is the past participle of "do", which should be placed after a "have", and in the first part, "have" is present in the contracted word, "I've" and it is followed by, "done". Because of that the verb tense in the second part should also be in the same tense—that is, past participle, in that case— just to observe parallelism. Observing parallelism in the construction of sentences is very much advised since it is more easily understood by readers. To cut things short, I suggest following the advise of that person who told you that the tenses should be consistent.

For more information about the tenses and parallelism, you may visit these sites: https://www.woodwardenglish.com/lesson/do-does-did-done/#google_vignette https://www.thoughtco.com/using-the-present-perfect-in-english-1689687 https://www.grammar.cl/english/do-does-did-done.htm#google_vignette https://thewritepractice.com/parallelism-keep-verbs-consistent/

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If it is already at night, I would use past tense for the main clause:

Today I did something I'd never done before.

If it is still early, I may still use the same construction, but if it is a day more of such never-before-events are expected (though I can't think of such a scenario now) I may use present perfect for the main clause:

Today I've done something I never did before.

In both cases, as the "doing" is deemed completed at the point of the speech, the part in the relative clause is considered past and is hence backshifted.

In both cases, the relativiser that is optional.

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