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I understand that the question beginning with "did you ever" is normally used to ask about a state or habit that doesn't lead up to the time of speaking.

for example:

Did you ever see her (while you were in London)?

The question beginning with "have you ever", by contrast, is used to mention a state or habit up to the point of speaking, so adverbials like 'in your life' would co-occur with the question.

However, I've also come across a lot of examples of "did you ever" in which a state of habit in question doesn't seem to belong to the finished past time, but to the present time.

Here are some of them:

  • Did you ever hear of anything more silly?

  • Did you ever think maybe you're not too big? (from the film, "Big Fish")

  • Did you ever try cocaine?

  • Did you ever hear of such a thing?

Each of the speaker doesn't seem to narrow his/her question down to a specific time in the past. Thus I suppose, while it is true that "Did you ever?" normally asks about things in the past, the question can sometimes mention things in the present time (rhetorically, sometimes). How well do you think it is supposed to be true?

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    Some people even use "do you ever", I think. – Vim Sep 22 '16 at 3:48
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    [Well] Did you ever? The phrase is sometimes used to signal surprise or disbelief (an exclamation rather than a question) in response to a statement or question about what has happened or is going to happen, as in the lyrics and refrain of Cole Porter's song, Well, did you evah! Note the exclamation rather than the question mark in the lyric. A line of the lyrics: "Have you heard? It's in the stars. Next July we collide with Mars. Well, did you ever!" Enjoy in on YouTube Well did you evah high society. This phrase is otherwise used in a colloquial sense to register surprise or disbelief – Peter Point Sep 22 '16 at 4:29
  • Clarification: my reference to YouTube is a wonderful clip from the movie "High Society" where Bing Crosby & Frank Sinatra have great fun in bandying these lyrics with the line-refrain, "Well, did you evah [ever]! – Peter Point Sep 22 '16 at 4:44
  • Well have you ever uses the perfect tense, which connotes some form of connection to the present. To me, the difference would be that have you implies that the frame of reference includes now, so probably all your life; did you would refer to whether you did it in a specific time frame, e.g. Last year. However, this logic might not apply to the songs to which you refer and other colloquial uses. – BladorthinTheGrey Sep 22 '16 at 6:26
  • To my BrE ear, "did you ever" sounds wrong. "Did you go dancing?" or "Have you ever gone dancing?" would be acceptable forms to me. – AndyT Sep 22 '16 at 13:29
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"Have", implies a relationship to non-specific history; "Did", implies a relation to a specific event.

Example: "I was walking . . . ", is questioned by, "Did you ever run?", and the statement, "I always walked . . . ", would be questioned with, "Have you ever ran?"

Have, asks about every instance or location; whereas; "Did", implies a specific event, while ever modifies the time frame but not location.

Even though, "Have you ever", is possibly redundant, it covers all alternatives and emphasizes the broadness of the question.

In summary,

Did you ever? is asking you to think of a specific event from a non-specific timeframe.

Have you ever? (Have you?) is asking for a non-specific event from a non-specific timeframe.

  • Have implies past tense; having (done ) and/or having experienced something in direct relation to the subject in the past. Whereas Did implies doing in simple past tense; in direct relation to an actual event being the subject of the sentence. e.g.: "Have you done your homework?" vs "Did you do your homework?" – Bekim Bacaj Oct 8 '16 at 8:05
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The Wikipedia entry on the present perfect tense supports your understanding of the difference between the simple past and the present perfect.

The present perfect in English is used chiefly for completed past actions or events when it is understood that it is the present result of the events that is focused upon, rather than the moment of completion. No particular past time frame is specified for the action/event. When a past time frame (a point of time in the past, or period of time which ended in the past) is specified for the event, explicitly or implicitly, the simple past is used rather than the present perfect.

The tense may be said to be a sort of mixture of present and past. It always implies a strong connection with the present and is used chiefly in conversations, letters, newspapers and TV and radio reports.

Arguably, the sentences you cite can be seen as focusing on a past event rather than the present consequences of such an event. An explicit statement of time frame is not required for this to be so. To my ear (American) the second, third, and forth of your example sentences sound fine, but the first one does sound slightly "off". That is perhaps because the question itself strongly implies a present reference or consequence: "Did you ever hear of anything sillier (than what I just told you)?" "Have you ever heard..." sounds (to me) a bit more natural.

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"I walked", becomes, "I had walked", which uses the past participle and is redundant other than to refer to a more specific event than simply "I walked", or, "I did walk", which uses the present verb, to refer to an exact event

Did you ever walk? Have you ever walked?

They answer a very similar question but have is less specific. Did is more authorial.

For example, in a courtroom a question in reference to a specific event would begin, "Did you", whereas asking for an unspecified event, that deals more with your current state, "Did you ever". You can alternatively ask, "Have you", but the addition of "ever", when used with have, is redundant and added to emphasize what is being asked, to think of a broader time frame and a less specific event.

Did you walk?, with the follow up question, Have you ever walked?, covers the alternatives; Did you ever walk? is asking for a specific event from a nonspecific timeframe.

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The difference between the usage is mainly that of tense, other than that "have you ever" is more likely to be used when you also have done that particular task that you are asking about and "did you ever" is used when you have not.

protected by tchrist Oct 12 '16 at 12:44

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