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'Ever' in Questions

'Ever' in Questions
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Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we answer a question from Shenchuan in China.


I really want to know the meaning of will ever be able to.


Shenchuan from China


Thank you for writing, Shenchuan. I am happy to answer this question.

“Will ever be able to” is a verb phrase. “Will be able to” refers to possibility at a future time. “Ever” is an adverb. In an Ask a Teacher years ago, we explained several meanings of “ever.” One meaning is “at any time.”

The word often appears in the phrase when someone is asking a question. For example,

Have you ever been to Zanzibar?

What is the best movie you have ever seen?

The difference in usage of “ever” in a question is so small that you might not even notice at first. But it is important to fully understand the meaning of “will ever be able to.”

Often, we use “ever” in questions such as “have you ever” to add emphasis, or strength, to a sentence. We might use “ever” if we expect people to agree with us, or have the same answer. For example,

Have you ever heard a better definition?

Have you ever been yelled at for just asking a question?

In these examples, “ever” shows a strong feeling.

We can also use “ever” with a question we believe will have a negative answer or feeling. And, we might not even expect an answer. For example,

Did you ever think about me?

Will I ever be able to climb Mount Everest?

In these examples, we use “ever” because we think the answer is no. And we may not expect anyone to actually answer the question.

We hope this explanation has helped you fully understand the meaning of “will ever be able to,” Shenchuan.

Do you have a question about American English? Send us an email at

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Gena Bennett.

Gena Bennett wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


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usagen. the way a word or phrase is used