Some verbs follow the adverb "never" must not take the form of present tense, and others don't have to.

I mean:
"It never exists" sounds strange, yet
"It never existed" is natural
"It never ceases to amaze me" is also natural

What is the difference of these two verbs?
Is verb "cease" special? Or is there any other rules?

  • 3
    You should take into consideration the meaning of the words, not only grammatical structures . I think it's similar in any language.
    – V.V.
    Feb 23, 2016 at 18:27
  • Google Books claims about 4,360 results for "it never exists". It only "sounds strange" if you can't easily think of a context where you might need / be able to say such a thing. Which as, @V.V. says, largely nets down to the semantic implications of linking never to present tense exists. The same would apply if you tried to link always with ceases [to do something]. Feb 23, 2016 at 19:01

2 Answers 2


'Exist' has a connotation of permanence, whereas 'cease' is something which can vary. Something can cease, and then start again.

There are some cases where 'It never exists' might work, but it is sort of clumsy. You might use it in a sentence such as 'This is a specific object. It never exists without a certain attribute.' I'm actually struggling to think of another verb which can't follow 'never' in a present tense. I think 'exist' is the special word here, rather than 'cease'.

'It never ceases' implies that it is something that often has the chance to stop (and possibly start again), but never does. Equally, 'My car never starts when I need it to' or 'It never rains in this town' work fine.

  • Thank you so much, sir! I was suffering form this problem so much that I couldn't get enough sleep, but tonight I'm sure that I can sleep so well!
    – Justus
    Feb 24, 2016 at 14:33

Something either exists or it does not exist. Something either "is" or it is not. With exists and is the predication is confined to the speaker's Now. They're like booleans.

We cannot say it never exists, or never is -- not if we're using the verbs exists and is grammatically.

We're not talking about sentences like "It is never quiet here."

Something never happens is OK because happens means "to occur at a specific point in time". Happens thus introduces the notion of linear time which is absent from the meaning of exists and is. Never needs time to extend beyond the present moment.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .