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Is the following sentence grammatical? :

Jack splits a blade of grass. He won't speak up. Never does. Tom will. Always does.

For some reason it sounds weird. I was wondering shouldn't it have been "never did" instead of "never does"?

What's the difference between the sentence above and this below? :

Jack splits a blade of grass. He won't speak up. Never did. Tom will. Always did.

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Never did means he's never done it before. Neved does means he doesn't do so, out of practice or habit. –  J.R. May 24 '12 at 10:51
    
@J.R. So "He won't speak up. Never does." is something like "He won't speak up. Never will." ? –  Pacerier May 24 '12 at 10:54
    
:^) You never know. As the saying goes, "There's a first time for everything." (One speaks about the past; the other, the future). That said, "never has - never will" is not all that uncommon a construct in English. –  J.R. May 24 '12 at 10:58
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

"Never does" and "Always does" in this context indicate that these are ongoing habits or traits that you have seen, continue to see, and presumably expect to continue into the future.

The past tense of "Never did"/"Always did" says that they were happening in the past, but does not necessarily mean that you expect them to continue. It may be that the person is deceased, or that you no longer know them, or that you are just not saying.

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The key here is the future tense. "He won't speak up. Never does." means: we can be sure that he will not speak up because that is his custom. The present tense here covers all the timeline: he has never spoken up and he will maintain this behaviour.

If we use the past tense, on the other hand, we lose this continuity and the sentence sounds awkward.

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It seems like you are narrating this incident to someone.

In that case, you are free to choose between "never did" and "never does".

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Do you mean to say that "never does" places the narrator back into the time when the story happened, whereas "never did" places the narrator at the present time, telling a past story? –  Pacerier May 24 '12 at 11:14
    
@Pacerier In case of narration, what you are saying is correct. But you can also say the same thing for "never did" as you are saying for "never does". –  user20934 May 24 '12 at 11:28
    
@Pacerier: To get that meaning in the second case, I would replace the future tense with the conditional (He wouldn't speak up). Otherwise you are mixing tenses. –  Gorpik May 24 '12 at 11:31
    
@Gorpik I have to disagree with you. Both the alternatives provided by Pracerier are absolutely correct. –  user20934 May 24 '12 at 11:33
    
@rudra: Do you mean that He won't speak up. Never did. expresses that the action took place in the past? –  Gorpik May 24 '12 at 11:44
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