"Have you ever read Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities?" he asked. (The New York Times)

I don't know why, but if I wrote that question I would have used never, not ever, but, alas, I would have made a mistake. In fact, looking for "have you never read" on reliable Internet sites, I found a few occurences of this expression, mostly in the Bible.

However I believe of having understood that "You have never read" is correct; what it is unclear is as to whether that "never" has to be replaced with "ever" when that sentence is posed in question form. Is it?

Please, in reference to the "ever" and the "never" usage explain how are different the following two questions, maybe comparing the affirmative forms:

  • Have you never read [...]?

  • Have you ever read [...]?

  • 1
    The difference of those sentence is the same there is in Italian, where you say Hai mai letto [...]? instead of "Have you ever read [...]?" and Non hai mai letto [...]? instead of "Have you never read [...]?"
    – apaderno
    May 8, 2013 at 9:51
  • @kiam, thank you for your very instructive comment!
    – user114
    May 8, 2013 at 12:19

2 Answers 2


Have you ever read ... ? is a simple question, asking if you are familiar with the work.

Have you never read ... ? is an incredulous response to your betraying unfamiliarity with the work:

"Have you never read such-and-such? I am amazed that a man of your evident scholarly attainments should be so ignorant."

It is more colloquially expressed as Haven't you ever read ... ?

  • 3
    Yeah. You could probably always discard ever, which is really just an intensifier. And never is just a "negator", so really the pair to be considered are semantically equivalent to "Do you love me?" and "Don't you love me?" But neither of those is exactly a "simple question", in most real-world contexts. The difference is that framing such questions in the negative implies I'm expecting the answer to be "No", but that's not the answer I would have preferred. May 7, 2013 at 23:31
  • 4
    @FumbleFingers If it comes to that, the ordinary versions where I come from would be "Djever read X?" and "Shiyut, yu never read X?" May 8, 2013 at 0:44
  • 1
    +1, as incredulity is exactly the emotion injected by changing ever to never.
    – J.R.
    May 8, 2013 at 8:12

Have you ever read this book?
No, I have never read it.

And also say "I have ever read . . ." Both are same.

  • Please don't use all caps here, it's like shouting. Jun 15, 2016 at 14:40
  • 1
    1. No shouting please. 2. No, they're not the same. Here "I have ever read it" is ungrammatical.
    – M.A.R.
    Jun 15, 2016 at 14:41
  • @AmudalaSatyanarayana lol......
    – Denny
    May 29, 2017 at 13:30

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