Actually I am a non native English speaker, of course I may come across many confusion but I don't care of those much,but curious some times to know about the things.

I know the meaning of 'Ever' which is 'At Anytime' and 'Always'.

I found there is a slight difference between 'Ever' and 'Anytime' when we use this.


  1. you can come at anytime. ---> here 'Anytime' means a specific time of the day but not determined.

  2. Have you ever seen this? ---> here 'Ever' says 'anytime', however any time of any day not any time of the particular day.

Is that the way you think?

Appreciate your response🙂

  • 2
    ever” means “at any time in the past or in the future” not “at anytime”
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 6:31
  • 1
    "Any time" should really be 2 separate words. Smooshing them together is informal. Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 8:38
  • 1
    Sunil, those examples are both much simpler and much more complicated than they look. you can come at any time might mean a specific time but not determined and that would depend why it’s not also a time determined but not specified. Either way, it can’t be clear whether … at any time means just turn up without notice or let me know in advance. Meanwhile have you ever seen this in no way refers to any time or day; it refers to your entire life. Commented Sep 24, 2017 at 23:11

2 Answers 2


Ever is a special Negative Polarity Item, a suppletion for the nonexistent *anywhen.

As an NPI, ever can only occur in negative contexts, which include questions, comparatives, and if-clauses, as well as many negative trigger words like not, seldom, doubt, only, and surprised.

  • He has not ever seen this.
  • He seldom ever looks at it.
  • I doubt he's ever seen it.
  • Only his wife has ever seen it.
  • I'm surprised he's ever seen it.

But remove the negative trigger and ever becomes ungrammatical.

  • *He has ever seen this.
  • *He ever looks at it.
  • *I think he's ever seen it.
  • *Even his wife has ever seen it.
  • *I'm pleased he's ever seen it.

Anytime (or any time) is also an NPI, but it's not suppletive, and has a range of usage beyond that of ever. For one thing, anytime has the 'free choice' sense of any, like you can do it anytime = 'choose a time, and you can do it then'. This is not possible with ever, which is strictly limited to negative contexts.


I would say that the word 'ever' has two meanings.

'Have you ever seen ...?' = at any time in the past.

'For ever' = always (thinking of the future).

'You can come at any time' is nothing to do with the word 'ever'.

  • This, I think, is too dogmatic. "Have you ever seen X" = "Have you seen at any time in the past." Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 17:25

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