7

I can never win.

Or

I can't ever win.

Can these be used interchangeably? Is there a case where one would work and the other wouldn't?

  • 3
    Yes. They both mean the same thing (I can not ever win) and they are both formed by contraction of the not, with one crucial difference: I can never win contracts not and ever, while I can't ever win contracts not and can. – John Lawler Dec 18 '14 at 21:45
6

Grammatically, they are absolutely interchangeable. Any advantage in one over the other would be a question of style.

In I can never win, the "n" in "never" stands for the negative "not". In I can't ever win, the "n't" in "can't" stands for the same negative "not". The effective statement in both formulas is the negative I can not win with "ever" modifying "win" as an adverb.

1

"never" is a simple statement of fact, whereas "not ever" says that it is a stronger command or statement.

  • Welcome to English Language & Usage! This answer is a useful addition to clarify the implications of the word choice, however it would be improved by elaboration and citing sources if possible. It's a bit short and vague at the moment. – SuperBiasedMan Mar 4 '16 at 11:14
  • You also need to address the actual examples given, which don't include 'not ever'. If you're claiming that one formulation adds emphasis, the exact nature of the expression becomes important. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 4 '16 at 11:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.