I came across a question in an English practice workbook like this:

I'm exhausted because I've worked/I've been working in a restaurant for the past three weeks. I've never realized/I never realized before how hard the work is!

Upon checking the answers, the first one is I've been working (present perfect continuous),which makes sense, but the second one is past simple (I never realized). It doesn't make sense. From what I've learned, "never" is typically used with the present perfect or present simple as an adverb of frequency. In what case can we use "never" with the simple past? Is this for emphasis, or is there some other advanced rule that I've never heard of?


  • Why exactly do you think it doesn't make sense? I think you might be interpreting what you have learned about never a little too literally. If you look up the definition of never, it says "at no time in the past or future; on no occasion; not ever".
    – stangdon
    May 9, 2023 at 14:32
  • Not an 'advanced rule' - just that we habitually use 'never + simple past' to refer to something we have learned for the first time. "I never knew that before!" "I never realised how difficult it was!" May 9, 2023 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


To say, "I haven't realized that" literally means, "I (still) don't know that." In your example sentence, the speaker already knows that working in a restaurant is hard work, which means the must have realized it in the past.

The problem here is the combination of the intended meaning of the sentence, the use of present perfect, and the use of negative with "realize".

To "realize" something means to learn and understand something that is true. You can only "realize" something that you believe is true. If you know something is true now, you must have realized it in the past.

If you haven't realized something, it means you don't know it yet, or don't believe it's true, so you cannot use the word "realize" about it.

It is possible to use present perfect, "realize" and the negative together, but not with the meaning you want:

Maybe you're right that working in a restaurant is hard, and maybe I just haven't realized it yet.

Here, the speaker still does not believe working in a restaurant is hard, but accepts that it might be, and that they just don't know it yet. This is not the meaning you intended.

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