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I'm having a hard time telling if my wording is correct or not. In the following sentence,

"...a job like that would be the first of its kind I will ever have worked,"

does it make any difference if "ever" comes after "have" rather than before? Is one wording better than the other? Or, alternatively, are they both examples of faulty ways of phrasing it?

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They're both fine. "Will have ever…" sounds a bit better in my opinion. – George Pompidou Aug 5 '14 at 19:31
Why use will after would makes everything hypothetical? In fact, why use a separate clause at all? I'd just use a job like that would be the first of its kind for me. – John Lawler Aug 5 '14 at 19:36

1 Answer 1

To avoid the would/will complication that John Lawler points out in a comment above, let's consider these two sentences instead of your original wording:

I have never worked as a pirate.

I never have worked as a pirate.

Structurally, the "ever have worked" versus "have ever worked" issue at the core of your original question is mirrored in the new sentences' "never have worked" versus "have never worked."

Syntactically, both "I never have worked" and "I have never worked" are completely acceptable and error-free. The more common phrasing in published writing is "I have never worked," as this Ngram chart for "I never have worked" (blue line) versus "I have never worked" (red line) for the period 1900–2000 indicates:

This preference in written English reflects a corresponding preference in spoken English, where the word order of "I have never worked" finds reinforcement in the order of the contracted form, "I've never worked." Still, in some situations, "I never have worked" may suit your purposes better. Such a situation may arise when you want to emphasize the continuity between past behavior and future behavior, and you want to stress the word have rather than the word never. Here is an example from the Australian Parliament's Parliamentary Debates (1910) [combined snippets]:

I am here to say that I never have worked alongside a nonunionist, and that I hope I never shall. I have belonged to a union for thirty-five years, during which time I have given to it all my leisure time. I have worked, not only for the benefit of my trade, but in the interests of the workers in general. I have suffered for doing so. Possibly, if I had not suffered in the cause I should not be here today.

Contrast that emphasis with the emphasis on never in the following excerpt, from in U.S. Senate, "Evidence Taken by the Interstate Commerce Commission in the Matter of Proposed Advances in Rates by Carriers, August to December 1910" (1911):

Mr. GANTT. Mr. Emerson and I have never worked together. I have known Mr. Emerson for several years, but I have not had the pleasure of working with him.

The preferable word order to use in a particular case thus depends on the word you want to emphasize and on the effect you want to create. English happily supports your decision on these points, whichever order you choose.

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