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A colleague of mine told me that "Right now you are the oldest you have ever been and the youngest you will ever be." I don't believe this is the case.

In my mind, the idea that he is trying to articulate is "will ever be, henceforth." When I hear "will ever be" I think that it includes the past, but I don't know which tense "will ever be" is in, technically.

His use of the word 'will' makes it seem like he's talking about the future, but he also uses the word 'ever' which means 'at any time'. There must be some sort of complex interaction between these two words, I just can't figure it out.

My best guess is that while he definitely states that the evaluation should include future dates, he doesn't carefully exclude the past, leaving this open to whether you think that 'will' or 'ever' is the more important word.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

No, the phrase will ever be does not include the past, but the statement your friend has made is perfectly correct and grammatical.

To explain:

Right now you are the oldest you have ever been.

This is true, unless you are a time-traveller, or your aging process goes backwards. I believe neither of that is true, therefore the statement is true.

Right now you are the youngest you will ever be.

This is also true, because you will never be any younger anytime in the future than you are right now at this very moment.

Imagine a timeline starting at right now, ending in the infinite future. There is no past on this imaginary timeline. At which point, on this timeline, are you the youngest (you will ever be)? At its beginning = right now!

EDIT: Seeing from the comments below your confusion, I'll try to explain this problem a little bit further.

Imagine the following sentence:

Will you finish this project?

This sentence may be expanded to:

Will you, in the future, finish this project?

Since will is a future tense and the future is already implied in it, there's no need for the expanded sentence.

As you mentioned, ever means "at any point in time," which is correct, but let's add it to our sentence:

Will you ever finish this project?

And let's expand our sentence again:

Will you ever, in the future, finish this project?

So, as you can see, ever still means at any point in time, but time is limited by the tense used in the sentence. Therefore, contrary to what you may or may not believe, will ever be does not include the past.

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I guess the question comes down then, to why you believe the phrase "will ever be" does not include the past. Do you have any grammatical reasons to believe that, or is it just how you feel about it? –  Kyle Aug 18 '11 at 22:13
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@RiMMER: The use of 'will' is definitely something that points to the future, but the use of 'ever' makes it more ambiguous because 'ever' means specifically 'at any time'. It seems like there is enough ambiguity to make a case for my understanding of the statement, seeing as these two words have contrary implications. –  Kyle Aug 18 '11 at 22:20
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'ever' means at any time that qualifies. Only times that are in the future can be described by 'will be'. Thus 'will ever be' refers to the entirety of the future. –  Karl Knechtel Aug 18 '11 at 22:59
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+1 for RiMMER'S explanation. "Have you ever" would imply the past, "Will you ever" implies the future. –  RGW1976 Aug 19 '11 at 0:25
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What we have is RiMMER's assertion that "will ever" implies only future, backed up by RGW1976, Karl Knechtel, and me; against Kyle's suggestion that it does not, backed up by a specious argument about the scope of "ever". Kyle, you are free to use any word any way you like, and understand any word any way you like. But you now have statements from four people that they would not understand the phrase the way you want to. –  Colin Fine Aug 19 '11 at 13:00

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