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What is the difference between the meaning and usage of for ever and forever in British English? From what I could gather from my online research,

forever means :

  1. (also for ever) for all future time; for always
  2. continually

and

for ever - Oxford has only Eng-Ger, Eng-It and Eng-Sp entries for it(apart from being redirected to forever's definition), Collins says it is an adverb meaning forever.

  • Duplicate of english.stackexchange.com/q/114420/40336 – Jerry May 21 '13 at 15:11
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    @Jerry: ELU questions which are closed as "general reference" and have no answers on the ELU question are not duplicates when posted here. – Matt May 21 '13 at 17:26
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In short, there is very little difference, if any, and I wouldn't worry about it. Only as a noun ( e.g. until forever) should it always be written as forever.


The Oxford English Dictionary says:

Ever:

5b: in phrases, for ever (sometimes, esp. in U.S., written forever, q.v.)

Forever (adverb):

  1. The phrase for ever (see ever 5b), written as one word. Chiefly U.S. exc. in sense ‘incessantly’.

  2. quasi-n. Eternity, perpetuity.

I think most readers wouldn't even notice whether you used one spelling or the other. But the OED indicates some subtle, potential differences: it is spelled for ever everywhere and in all senses, but the spelling forever for the adverb is more common in America, whereas in England forever is more likely to mean "incessantly", so in a sentence that describes a repeated action. As a noun, it is always forever.

  • The Q. relates specifically to BrE while the citations refer to AmE use of the word in place of the phrase. The word and the phrase do not always mean the same in BrE. – Kris May 22 '13 at 6:32
  • @Kris can you please elaborate upon the differences? – tanvi May 22 '13 at 13:23
  • @Kris: I have all the information available in the OED, which includes both British and American usage. I have interpreted and explained the OED in this regard, which includes explicit mention of the differences between British and American usage. What more is there to say? Do tell us if you have more information. – Cerberus May 22 '13 at 14:00
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It seems that forever and ever do have two different meanings. Ever, meaning at all times; continuously. Forever, with the prefix fore would suggest the meaning of "before" in space, time, condition. So forever would make one think of past eternity as opposed to a future eternity. So "Forever" is past & future eternity while "Ever" is future only eternity. So there is a difference between forever and everlasting

  • If you had ever considered this sentence you might not have written this :) – StoneyB Mar 9 '14 at 21:50

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