Is there any difference between 2 sentences:

  1. Steve can never find time for us. He needs to be more respectful.
  2. Steve never can find time for us. He needs to be more respectful.

If there is, please explain the meaning. Thank you.

  • 1
    Where did the sentences come from? What do you think the difference might be?
    – mdewey
    Oct 25, 2022 at 12:41
  • idk my friend, trying to figure out the difference. Seems like 'never can' might convey physical impossibility or smth like tha. But it's not suitable to the context.
    – Roro
    Oct 25, 2022 at 12:45
  • 1
    Both are possible. They mean the same. The first is more natural. Oct 25, 2022 at 12:50
  • Contrary to the other responses, I (a British English speaker) would probably distinguish between the two in that I'd say that although 'can never' is more common and more natural in most contexts, 'never can', can be used in certain cases to place emphasis on the 'can'. The example that comes to mind is when negating someone else's positive assertion, e.g. "I can't work it out!" might be met with a derogatory "You never can work it out[, can you?]", with the stress as well as the word order emphasising the person's distinct inability to solve the issue. Oct 25, 2022 at 21:17

2 Answers 2


Both are possible.

We usually put never after the auxiliary verbs or the modals.

Steve can never find time for us.

We can put never before the auxiliary verbs/modals to emphasize that two statements are connected.

Steve is always busy. He never can find time for us.


They can mean the same, or the second one can be said with a sarcastic or frustrated tone, with stress on "can".

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