Methamphetamine should have never been created.


Methamphetamine should never have been created.

Which one is correct?

This seems like it should have a simple answer, but either way sounds good to my ear.

Is there an official rule?

EDIT: This is not the same as asking the difference between 'was never' and 'never was.' 'Was' is the past tense form of the infinitive verb 'to be.' In this case, the word 'have' is part of the verb itself. This question essentially involves whether the word 'never' could be added as part of the verb. To clarify and expand the question, it could in fact be said in three different ways:

should have never been

should never have been

never should have been

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    Idiomatically, your second version is far more common. But there's no "rule" - it's just a stylistic choice where it so happens nearly everyone makes the same choice. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 15:35
  • That's funny, @FumbleFingers, I would use the 1st example since "have never" is more emphatic, especially spoken, than "never have", (to me, of course). Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 16:01
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    @Kristina: But do you not have a "gut feel" for the established idiomatic preference, even though in this specific context you might choose to override it? The way I see it, there's no specific "rule" here, so we're free to go either way. If you do choose to go down the "less-traveled" route, at least some fraction of your audience will (consciously or subconsciously) take that on board. And if they're anything like me they may simply assume your purpose was to add emphasis even though that's not "inherent" in the word order. So it works that way, even though there's no actual reason. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 16:24
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    @Kristina: I'm pretty sure that specific point came up on ELL a while ago, but I can't find it now. I mean the idea that we always tend to look for some subtle nuance when we encounter a valid, but not the most common sequence of words. Which is often a problem for nns because they don't necessarily know which of two sequences is more common. Come to that, we native speakers don't always know consciously, so on ELL we sometimes end up tying ourselves in knots trying to "explain" how a different order shifts the emphasis when it's just "unusual sequence" means pay attention! Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 17:16

1 Answer 1


Since the language is arbitrary, I'm not pretty sure that there's ever a syntactic rule or probably pragmatic glasses points out of this thing.

But I would really recommend you the first sentence, since the adverb of frequency used there emphasizes the "negative" form of the sentence indirectly.

It's like using "not" in a normal negative sentence!

Best Regards.

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