Have you ever noticed the number of times that a native English speaker uses the word “ever”? Ever is an adverb that we Americans say a lot.
Here’s today’s question, from Zanoni in Venezuela:
Hello. I would like to get some tips about the right usage of the adverb "ever." Thanks in advance. - Zanoni, Venezuela
There are many ways to use the word “ever,” but some of them are very formal, less modern, or more common in British English. So it might help more if I tell you how Americans most often use the word.
There are a few ways we use it.
At any time
The first way means “at any time.” For this meaning, we often use it in question form:
Have you ever visited Zanzibar?
Do you ever wonder how you will look in 10 years?
What is the best film you have ever seen?
Note that the third example uses the superlative adjective “best.”
We can also use “ever” in statements, such as when you are describing something with a superlative or comparative adjective.
The Ring is the best horror film I’ve ever seen.
The cost of living is higher than it has ever been.
In negative statements, we can use the term “not ever” to mean “not at any time.” But “never” is much more common. Listen to the following sentences that have the same meaning:
He doesn’t ever let his mother finish speaking.
He never lets his mother finish speaking.
But with negative words, like “nobody,” “no one,” “rarely” and “hardly,” we use “ever” instead of “never.” Let’s listen:
No one here ever cleans up after themselves.
I rarely ever carry money with me.
Americans also use “ever” in the expression “ever since.” It means “continually or often from a past time until now,” which is similar to the meaning of “since.” But using “ever” adds strength to the statement.
Ever since I started stretching, my back has felt much better.
You can also say it like this, with the same meaning:
My back has felt much better ever since I started stretching.
And that’s Ask a Teacher.
I’m Alice Bryant.
Do you have a question for Ask a Teacher? Write to us in the comments area and be sure to tell us what country you are from.
Words in This Story
adverb – n. a word that describes a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a sentence and that is often used to show time, manner, place, or degree
tip – n. a piece of advice or useful information
formal – adj. suitable for serious or official speech and writing
superlative – adj. of or relating to the form of an adjective or adverb that is used to indicate the greatest degree of a particular quality
negative – adj. expressing denial or refusal