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This question already has an answer here:

I am afraid I have never read Life of Pi, the novel by Yann Martel.

Is this sentence wrong? If not wrong, is it sloppy? To me it seems more appropriate to say:

I am afraid I never read Life of Pi, the novel by Yann Martel.

If neither is wrong, which is the better way of writing?

If possible, could you also contrast the inclusion/exclusion of "have" in the "have never" in the sentences below?

  1. I have never read anything so stupid in my entire life.
  2. I have never been to the USA.
  3. I have never eaten at that restaurant.
  4. I never read the books; I only attended the lectures.
  5. I never lied.
  6. I have never lied. [sentence seems wrong]

On a side note, would the sentence be improved if it is made less wordy?

I never read Yann Martel's Life of Pi.

marked as duplicate by Mari-Lou A, TrevorD, MetaEd, tchrist, Kristina Lopez Aug 28 '13 at 17:43

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • 1
    "I have never lied" is not wrong grammatically, it's just not something any human being can say truthfully. ("I never lied" implies a previously-defined timeframe or situation to which it applies, whereas "I have never lied" applies to your entire life.) – Marthaª Aug 24 '13 at 18:22
  • I believe that "have never" applies to time only up till now. (The difference between "never lied" and :have never lied" seems to be one of emphasis.) In order to apply to an entire life, I think "I will have never lied" would be better. One could say, "I have never gone skiing" - quite truthfully - and then, next season, learn how to ski. – ZZMike Aug 24 '13 at 18:28
  • related and the accepted answer is very thorough english.stackexchange.com/questions/63256/… – Mari-Lou A Aug 25 '13 at 10:12
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The sentence isn't wrong and it's not sloppy. When using have never read or haven't read you are describing your current state using Present Perfect (Existential) tense. You are allowing that that might change in the future.

When using never read one is typically speaking of a bounded time frame in the past (like while at school) and that state is now unchangeable.

So you might use the first sentence if you and a friend are talking and they make a reference to the book and you admit that you've never read it (but it's on my list of books I want to read). I should note here, that you can still use PP even if you don't plan on ever reading: I've never read it, and I don't ever plan to because I don't like tigers.

You might use the second sentence if you and a friend are talking and they make a reference to having read it for English class in 9th grade and you then admit that you never read it (while in high school).

As far as shortening it, it all depends on what your point is. You've changed it to a statement of fact but lost the apology. If the apology was the your main reason for making the statement, cutting that out wouldn't be very helpful.

  • It's not present perfect continuous. That would be I have never been reading, which is not really correct here. The use of the perfect construction here is the Existential Sense, "used to indicate the existence of past events, e.g, I have read Principia Mathematica five times." In this case, because never is negative, it would be the nonexistence of past events that's indicated. – John Lawler Aug 24 '13 at 17:37
  • @JohnLawler- Thanks. Of course you are right. I'll fix it. – Jim Aug 24 '13 at 17:56
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  1. You can say this and it sounds best to my ear:

    I am afraid I have never read (pronounced red) Life of Pi, the novel by Yann Martel.

  2. You can say this, and it sounds okay but not as right as #1:

    I am afraid I never read (pronounced reed) Life of Pi, the novel by Yann Martel.

  3. It does sound odd to say this, and this may be what prompted your question:

    I am afraid I have never read (pronounced reed) Life of Pi, the novel by Yann Martel.

  4. It does sound somewhat odd to say:

    I am afraid I never read (pronounced red) Life of Pi, the novel by Yann Martel.

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