I know the usage of present perfect tense is to say that the action is done at this moment or to say that the results of a past action is still existing at this moment, But how we can apply these rules when we are using the word "Never" in a sentence, for example, "I never have done this". I think that I have not understood the usage of negative present perfect, which is confused me.

  • The most common way to say that would be, "I have never done this", although it seems quite common to add "before" when saying that particular sentence, e.g. "I've never done this before".
    – jgritty
    Nov 2, 2015 at 17:59

2 Answers 2


The easiest way to think of the uses of Present Perfect tense that you have enumerated and the case about which you are asking, is that they are about now, about the present.

Whether it's some act the result of which is now brought to the attention, or some action that continues from some unknown/unimportant point in the past up until now, or whether it's the absence of something now due to inactivity in the past, the now is what connects them all.

If that way of dealing with it doesn't appeal to you, you can try putting the opposite to work. What would you consider the opposite statement of

I never have done this.

? It would likely be

I have done this.

, right? It doesn't matter when you did it (if you only did it once), or how many times you did it, what matters is that you possess the knowledge or experience now and for that you use the present perfect tense. So, if you don't possess the experience, there is not much to change. Just add a "never"...


When you use the present perfect with never, it means "not ever/at any time in your life up to now".

I have never done it.

On the contrary, if you use the never in the past, it means that you didn't ever do it in the past; maybe you do it now. However, I don't think it's at all incorrect to use the past simple. Many people do so in informal conversation. Look at the following sentence:

I never knew you played the guitar. The sentence in informal English means that you didn't know until now you played the guitar (Longman).

  • Can you substantiate the alleged preference for simple past over present perfect in American English ? e.g. "I never ate raw fish" versus "I've never eaten raw fish".
    – TimR
    Nov 2, 2015 at 23:16
  • Tromano, Oxford Practice Grammar (John Eastwood) Appendix 5 American English, page 382. American usually use the past simple for ever and never, but the present perfect is possible. The boy never saw snow before or the boy has never seen snow before.
    – Khan
    Nov 3, 2015 at 1:43
  • Hmmm ... The "before" is doing the temporal work of the tense there and insofar as it supplies a terminus earlier than "now" ("before" implies that he is seeing snow at this moment), it asks for the simple past. But in sentences without such a time-marker, my sense is that the simple past is not preferred over the present perfect. "He's never seen snow." versus "He never saw snow until today."
    – TimR
    Nov 3, 2015 at 12:06
  • TRomano, I never knew you played the guitar! It means that you didn't know until now that ........(Longman).
    – Khan
    Nov 4, 2015 at 1:49
  • But "until now" terminates at the present, whereas with the present perfect the relevance of the past extends into or involves the present. So this example of the guitar-playing is not a scenario that asks for the present perfect: *I have never known that you played the guitar. Since at this moment I now know that you play the guitar, I can say "I never knew" but I cannot say "I have never known".
    – TimR
    Nov 4, 2015 at 12:41

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