A colleague of mine often pulls me up on my awful grammar, earlier today I said "I never went to poker yesterday" and she told me that it was grammatically incorrect.

I understand that I could/should have said "I did not go to poker yesterday" but I would like to know whether my original statement was technically a grammatically correct statement, because in my head it makes logical sense.


  • Grammatical, yes, but not in the standard dialect(s). – bye Aug 22 '14 at 13:15
  • Works better if "poker" is actually a contraction. – RyeɃreḁd Aug 22 '14 at 14:06
  • @RyeɃreḁd I hardly even know 'er! – Ed Plunkett Aug 22 '14 at 18:48
  • How many times did you go to poker yesterday? I never went to poker yesterday! – GEdgar Sep 18 '15 at 13:23

The other answers are all incomplete. In many parts of England

I never went to poker last night

is perfectly normal (except that the people who speak that dialect probably don't play much poker).

For many British speakers, never went with a specific time mentionedor implied is the normal way of expressing standard didn't go, perhaps with a slight intensification of meaning.

And, as I said in a comment, it is normal to use the name of an activity (without an article) as a pseudo-place, meaning "my regular attendance at". At swimming, after salsa, on the way to choir, during rehearsal, instead of bridge, are examples.

  • There are some instances where the definite article is preferred: 'went to the racing' (often 'races', of course); 'went to the dancing'; even 'went to the jazz on Sunday' (I've heard the last expression, but there's only one Google hit). 'Went to the opera' is probably count-noun rather than activity usage. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 '14 at 15:06
  • Dropping the verb play must be a colloquial ellipsis more common in the UK than in the US. – Gary's Student Aug 22 '14 at 15:22
  • "Never went" meaning "didn't go" is a common expression to me in the U.S. as well, but it sometimes conveys (with more emphasis than "didn't go") a sense of emotional interest in the fact, such as disappointment, disapproval, contempt, regret or surprise. Situational context would determine what sense it is used. – Canis Lupus Aug 22 '14 at 17:30
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    And you can separate the main verb (whether it's "went" or something else). So, "I never" means "I didn't" in the context of a particular time period. "Did you play poker last night?". "No, I never". The response means "not last night", it doesn't suggest the responder hasn't ever played poker on any night. – Steve Jessop Aug 22 '14 at 18:57
  • @Gary'sStudent: it's not dropping the verb play; it's abbreviating the noun phrase the poker session or our regular poker game or something similar. – Colin Fine Aug 22 '14 at 19:08

If you mean: "I was intending to go play poker yesterday, but for some reason I never got around to it", then yes, your sentence is all right. But it might be better to say: "I never did go to poker yesterday", with stress on "did".

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    Never ... did ... yesterday does not sound correct. It might be used by some speakers but it does not sound correct in my ears. – mplungjan Aug 22 '14 at 13:20
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    @mplungjan: It's perfectly ordinary English. Here are a couple of written instances of "I never did see him last night", for example. In such contexts, never did is simply an "intensifying" alternative to didn't, and it's not generally considered to be a "flaky" usage. – FumbleFingers Aug 22 '14 at 13:55
  • @FumbleFingers: never used as an intensifier sounds very British to me, although I can't figure out a way of testing whether this is right using Ngrams. – Peter Shor Aug 22 '14 at 14:31
  • @Peter: I wouldn't have thought it's particularly British to say "I'd never have thought this is a specifically BrE usage". But I do have a sense that the more extreme form "I never said that" (in contexts where the scope of "never" is simply my last contribution to an ongoing conversation) is probably more BrE than AmE. – FumbleFingers Aug 22 '14 at 14:41
  • @FumbleFingers: Right. "I'd never have" is perfectly fine in AmE. But certain uses of never restricted to a time period, like "I never saw him last night", sound British to me. But I could be wrong. – Peter Shor Aug 22 '14 at 14:48

There are two items at issue:

  1. "to poker" v.s. "to play poker"
  2. "never went" v.s. "did not go"

Unless poker is a physical location, like the library, you should use "to play poker"

Both "never went" and "did not go" imply that you did not travel somewhere to play poker yesterday.

The phrase "never went" might also imply that you intended to play yesterday.


As Colin points out, there are some places where the phrase "to poker" is common. This is a regional colloquial ellipsis in which words are removed and assumed to be there. In Bradford Pennsylvania, I could say "The car needs washed." Most listeners would assume I meant "The car needs to be washed.

The decision to use this type of phrase depends on the rules you are trying to follow.

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    In this context, I view "poker" less as a verb and more as and event/place. Along the lines of "I never went to (summer) camp as a child" – Paul H Aug 22 '14 at 18:28
  • "Poker" can be short for "poker night" or "the poker game". It's not necessarily "play poker". It's similar to how one might ask, "How was soccer [practice]?" – John Kugelman Aug 22 '14 at 18:29
  • @JohnKugelman I agree with you, but it's just a different ellipsis. To you "I never went to poker." may mean "I never went to the poker game." The ambiguity to me is attending an event versus going to play! – Gary's Student Aug 22 '14 at 18:39

Poker is a game not a place. You go to a location and went refers to location. Since poker is not a location it would sound awkward at best saying you went to it. It would be on par with saying I went to Monopoly last night. Huh?

So you can say - "I never went to the poker game last night" or "I didn't play poker last night".

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    This reply is correct for some more formal registers of English. It is quite wrong for colloquial British usage (and I suspect other Englishes as well). Talking about going to poker, to football, to judo, to swimming are all perfectly normal here, and imply that this is a regular appointment. – Colin Fine Aug 22 '14 at 14:26
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    I go "to the movies" and not "to the movie theatre". Why can't I go "to poker" and not "to the poker game"? – Peter Shor Aug 22 '14 at 14:29
  • @ColinFine - I completely agree but people you are talking to are assuming that you are going to [play] poker, football [league], judo [practice]. It depends on the context of both speaker and listener. – RyeɃreḁd Aug 22 '14 at 14:29
  • @PeterShor - because in your area movie theatre has been shortened to "the movies". – RyeɃreḁd Aug 22 '14 at 14:31
  • @RyeBread: Not completely; I can go to the movie theatre without going to the movies (although why I would want to ...) – Peter Shor Aug 22 '14 at 14:32

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