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I'd like to express that the steak I had (last Sunday) was the best one I have ever eaten. Is "Have ever eaten" correct or do I have to use the past simple "I ever ate", since the process (of eating) is already over. If I won't refer to any date in the past, which tense is the correct one?

Nonetheless, "Have ever eaten" sounds correct to me. But sometimes the usage of past simple and simple perfect just confuses me.

Thanks in advance for your help, guys!

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    You can say it's the best steak you ever ate, or the best steak you've ever eaten. They both mean the same thing. The use of "ever" makes it clear that you mean the time period being discussed is the entirety of your existence to date. (Heck, if you want to be really archaic or eccentric, you could even say "That's the best steak I ever did eat!") – John Clifford Mar 3 '16 at 15:12
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    Ever ate is colloquial and pidgin. – Blessed Geek Mar 3 '16 at 15:32
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    Where is that coming from, @BlessedGeek? It does not seem so to me in the least. (Ngram.) – Brian Donovan Mar 3 '16 at 15:53
  • It doesn't matter how popular it is, when it does not hold any grammatical sense. As you would not use such grammatical modes in a formal or technical document. – Blessed Geek Mar 3 '16 at 16:15
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    It is perfectly grammatical, @BlessedGeek, and I would not hesitate to use such a construction in a formal context, any more than Dr. Johnson (famously formal in conversation) hesitated to use "the best thing he ever wrote" (Reported by Boswell, Aetat. ~40). Ate is the simple past of eat (having long since superseded eat |εt| in that role), just as wrote is the simple past of write. – Brian Donovan Mar 3 '16 at 16:34
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Both sound correct but there's a nasty nuance :

  • "The steak I had (last Sunday) was the best one I have ever eaten". "Have ever eaten" includes the present period (untill now) where you are talking ; it's still continuing actually.
  • The past simple "I ever ate", means the eating is already over, ie. previously past meals.

Nonetheless, the distinction would infer/play only if you were talking with a steak (in your plate) you already start to eat... In such case, "ever eaten" would include that last steak. But so far you haven't done yet to eat it, the use of "ever ate" wouldn't allow us to understand exactly whether you're considering the meat you're eating now.

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