Is ever appropriate to use in past simple questions? Is there a difference in present perfect questions using ever meaning a time period up to now and the past simple use of ever in a question? If there is a difference in meaning what is it please?

  • Yes, ever is appropriate in either past or present tense, with or without the perfect, provided (1) it occurs in a negative environment (ever is a Negative Polarity Item), and (2) the clause refers to some continuous period of time. Both of these conditions are met in your questions: (1) questions are negative environments, and (2) the clause refers to the period of the addressee's lifetime. So ever is equivalent to at any time, and that can also be used in either tense, with or without perfect. Jan 5, 2014 at 16:58

3 Answers 3


They are very similar in meaning because of the use of ever which is muddying the issue. Without ever the did form tends to refer to a specific time context. For example: "I went to Paris for a holiday." "Did you visit the Eiffel Tower?" It's quite clear that we are referring to the period of the holiday. However the question "Have you visited the Eiffel Tower?" does not reference any time. When the did form is modified by ever they become virtually synonymous.


They are different. Use the past if you refer to something specific. For example "You said you wanted to go check out that restaurant last week. Did you ever go?" (Finally) or "Did I ever tell you what I did last Friday night?" (Eventually). Use the present perfect if you refer to something general or/and uncertain. For example, "Have you ever visited Paris?" (In your life) or "Have I ever told you how much I love her?" (In all these years). Hope this helps.


Present perfect tense in this context is used to ask about an experience in people's entire lifetime.For instance, Have you ever played football?( in your life) But the past simple version of the question which by the way includes an "ever" inside, usually refers to a question about a specific period of time in the past, for example: Did you ever miss me when I was gone?( from the second I left till I was back)
When you were in war, did you ever kill anybody?

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