My friends and I are discussing about a grammar question that hasn't reached a conclusion. We were at a birthday party last night and we ate pizza there. Immediately after eating the pizza, one of my friends said "It was nice! I have never had pizza before." I told him that it should be "It was nice! I ** never had** pizza before. I think the past tense should have been used because by the time he spoke about not having pizza, he actually had it. But I could not counter why he was wrong. Could someone please tell me "have never had" or "never had" which one he should have used?
I would say both of them are correct, but the present-perfect one sounds more natural.
The present-perfect version basically says "We just had a good pizza – up until now, I've never had anything like this", while the past-perfect version says "We had a good pizza this evening – up until that pizza, I'd never had anything like it".
It's about point of view. Your friend views the moment of eating that pizza as very recent, hence he chose to use present perfect. You view that moment as occurring in the past, hence you chose to use past perfect. Both are OK, but I personally would use the present perfect tense.
Do note that in the future, where the moment of eating that pizza clearly belongs to the past, we must use the past perfect.
Also, in spoken English, have/had as helper verbs are (almost always) contracted to