What is the difference between "I never was" and "I was never"? It seems that there is a subtle difference, but I can't quite grasp it. Is one of them informal?

For example:

  • I never was a good cook.
  • I was never a good cook.
  • 1
    Can you give us more context, examples of how you would use each variation?
    – ewormuth
    Aug 25, 2015 at 3:01
  • Say, I never was a good cook, and I was never a good cook.
    – jose
    Aug 25, 2015 at 3:06
  • 3
    Never was I more sure that there is no difference.
    – tchrist
    Aug 25, 2015 at 4:03
  • @ewormuth - In this case, the OP can't provide context, because that's exactly what s/he is requesting! Aug 26, 2015 at 0:36
  • I guess I was feeling as @tchrist did -- there's not much difference between them. If I had another sentence, maybe I would see what the difference was.
    – ewormuth
    Aug 26, 2015 at 14:12

3 Answers 3


I never was a good cook.

Possible context: Lisa's mother-in-law has pressured her to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for the extended family. Lisa has reluctantly agreed. She made an honest try but made a key mistake and the turkey was a failure. "Well, you know, I never was a good cook."

I was never a good cook.

Possible context: Margaret, in her eighties and living in a nursing home, is being interviewed by a gerontology student. She confides to the student, "I was never a good cook."


I never was a good cook. That sentence shows me that negative emotional answer which means the person never become a good cook. Whereas the other sentence;

I was never a good cook. Shows me that the person is denying something, he knowns already by using no.


"I never was that vulnerable"

Here we are highlighting the never. A strong emotion of past. Now, I am vulnerable, and it seems not good. A negative emotion.

"I was never that vulnerable."

Here it is lacking that strong emotion and is more like a simple statement. I'm vulnerable now, but it's no big deal.

Both mean the same but it's little decoration to highlight negative emotion.

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