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I have heard and seen "only ever" used as in: "I only ever clean my car when the sun is high." I live in Massachusetts and never heard this usage until recently. I understand the meaning, but wonder if this is a regional usage.

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    It only ever seemed like a perfectly natural usage to me (I'm sure I've been using it freely for half a century or more, here in the UK). So I was a bit surprised to find that my NGram suggests it's only only recently gained significant traction. Jan 24, 2016 at 18:02
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    I was born and raised in the South and lived here almost my entire life, and have heard 'only ever' all my life. I think it's a fairly literal expression.
    – Tim Ward
    Jan 24, 2016 at 18:22
  • @FumbleFingers I think what you're seeing is only ever becoming more common as written texts get less formal in style. But that's only a guess ... Apr 18, 2017 at 11:38
  • Not common here in the US Midwest, but I have heard it from speakers of other dialects.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 8, 2017 at 1:39
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    No, categorically, "only ever" is not regional. I live in Massachusetts also.
    – Lambie
    May 26 at 0:25

2 Answers 2

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"Ever" is an intensifier, with its proximity to "only" adding to its effect. Grammatically, these mean the same thing.

"I only ever clean my car when the sun is high" "I only clean my car when the sun is high, ever."

It functions similarly to "at all"

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I, too, have lived in the South all my life--I'm 73--and have never heard "only ever" used except in books. It sounds awkward to me, since just the word 'only' means the same thing.

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  • Please explain your answer, preferably with some supporting statements and references. While opinions are valued, they are not of much help as answers.
    – NVZ
    Feb 17, 2017 at 12:41

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