Grammar > Adverbs



By Alena Lien, 

8 December 2020

"Ever" has a number of definitions and uses:

-   at any time" or continuously. 

-   used for emphasis or emphasise other words. 

-   be part of a phrase or expression to mean a variety of different things.


1.   To ask if you have experienced something before.

Usually the questions are in the present perfect tense, but it can sometimes be used in the present simple.

Present perfect:

  • "Have you ever been to Eggs and Bacon Bay?"

This is asking if you have experienced this in the past - even if it is only once.

Present simple:

  • "Do you ever go to Eggs and Bacon Bay?"

This is asking if you do this on a regular basis.

Although there is a difference between the two questions, they're often used interchangeably when asking about past experiences.

2.   To express the number of times you did something.

This is usually used in the present perfect tense.

+ "Only" or ordinal numbers (e.g. first, second, third etc.)

  • "That's the only time Eve has ever tried caviar."

  • "It's the third time I've ever tried caviar."

Actually, "ever" is not required in these sentences.

  • "That's the only time Eve has ever tried caviar."

  • "That's the only time Eve's tried caviar."

Both of these sentences pretty much mean the same thing. However, using "ever" emphasises that this is the only time Eve has had caviar.

3.   To state conditions with "if."

"Ever" usually goes after "if," but it can be placed in a few different positions.

  • "If ever we go to the beach, we should remember to bring spare clothes."

  • "If we ever go to the beach again, remember to bring spare clothes!"

  • "If we had ever brought spare clothes, we wouldn't be wet right now!"

4.   To mean "continuously" with certain expressions.

  • "I can't imagine living there for ever."

  • "They lived happily ever after."

+ Adjectives - more formal.

  • "There has been an ever-increasing demand for red meat over the past 50 years."

  • "Drug addiction is an ever-present issue in this country."

5.   To look back (from a specific point in the past until the present) with "ever since."

This is usually used in the present perfect tense.

  • "He's been depressed ever since his owner died."

  • "I haven't seen them ever since they started dating."

However, you can also use this in the past tense.

  • "I started exercising more often ever since my last health check."

  • "Wally has been trying to be more productive at work ever since his last performance review."

6.   To make comparisons to previous experiences.

Superlative adjectives

  • "That was the scariest movie I have ever seen."

  • "She's the fastest runner they've ever had on their team."

Comparative adjectives + "than ever"

  • "The dog is barking louder than ever."

  • "The service is worse than ever."

"As... as ever"

Although this is used to compare one experience to another, this expression implies that things have not changed or it is the same as always.

  • "The service and food are as bad as ever."

  • "Work is as busy as ever."

7.   To add emphasis, or emphasise a word in a sentence or question.

"Ever so" and "ever such"

However, these sound a bit old-fashioned to me.

  • "I felt ever so cold."

  • "It was ever such a terrible memory."

Emphasise adjectives

  • "He made his first ever appearance on TV!"

  • "She was the fastest ever runner to run on those tracks."

Emphasise questions

This is often used to express surprise and shock, but may also express anger, annoyance or disappointment.

  • "How ever did they manage to do that?"

  • "What ever are you doing?"

Question words can also be combined with "ever" - however, whatever, wherever, whenever, and whoever.

  • "However did they manage to do that?"

  • "Whatever are you doing?"

Bear in mind however, these combined words also have different meanings that are often used in sentences.

There is little difference if the words are separated or not. Using question words and "ever" separately seems to have more emphasis than when it is combined, but this is only noticeable in writing, not when speaking.

  • "Whatever are you doing?"

  • "What ever are you doing?"

8.   In negative sentences.

"Not ever" is the same as "never." To me however, using "not ever" has a little more emphasis if you use the right tone.

  • "My father never calls me."

  • "My father doesn't ever call me."

+   "Hardly," "rarely," "barely" or "scarcely"

  • "She hardly ever smiles at anyone."

  • "I rarely ever get the chance to watch TV nowadays."

+   "Nothing," "nobody" or "no one"

  • "Nobody has ever complimented my cooking before."

  • "Nothing should ever make you feel like you're worthless."