I encountered a question in a textbook for an English exam as below where I did not understand why the correct answer is that.

Ms.Tanaka is the ideal leader for the project because she has _______ worked in both business management and textile design.
(A) yet
(B) especially
(C) previously
(D) ever

The answer was (C) according to the book but it feels like (D) is also possible. Why is (D) not correct?

  • 1
    Ever is a negative polarity item and therefore cannot be used outside the scope of a negative. There is no negative in the example, so ever would be ungrammatical. Apr 28, 2015 at 2:33
  • @JohnLawler But, you can say 'the best I have ever seen,' even though there is no negative meaning in it.
    – Tom
    Apr 28, 2015 at 2:39
  • Superlatives (and comparatives, and questions, and many other constructions) can trigger negative polarity. See the list of English NPIs and Negative triggers here. Apr 28, 2015 at 2:42
  • I would say already suits much better.
    – Kris
    Apr 28, 2015 at 5:09
  • @Kris But that's not one of the choices.
    – Barmar
    Apr 28, 2015 at 20:52

2 Answers 2


If you go through the definitions of ever you'll see that none of them really fit this context.


This isn't a negative or a question.

Used in comparisons for emphasis

This isn't a comparison.

At all times; always

This initially seems like it could be used. However, this sense tends to be part of set phrases, such as as ... as ever, happily ever after, and forever and ever.

[WITH COMPARATIVE] Increasingly; constantly

It's not modifying a comparative.

Used for emphasis in questions expressing astonishment or outrage

It's not in a question, nor is it expressing any significant emotion.


The sentence makes sense without the adverb:

Ms.Tanaka is the ideal leader for the project because she has worked in both business management and textile design.

Which adverb modifies the declarative verb meaningfully?

(C) previously


At a previous or earlier time; before:

Previous experience is a major factor in measuring qualification for leadership, and according to the corpus, previous has quite a strong idiomatic connection to this declarative verb form has worked:

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Ever has idiomatic connection to the phrase has worked, but according to the corpus the connection is mainly in interrogative, relative and conditional constructions:

  • Who has ever worked in any hospital or medical facility?
  • Sir Clive Woodward singled him out as the best he has ever worked with...
  • The first thing the troubleshooter does is find out if the equipment has ever worked.

According to the corpus, yet is used with the declarative verb phrase mainly in negative contexts:

  • Enormous sums have been spent on huge fusion generators, but none has yet worked as a power source.

According to the corpus, especially and have very little idiomatic use with the declarative phrase has worked:

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