this is my first time posting here so excuse me if this is not the place to ask. I wanted to use the "She didn't want it to ever fade", but I'm not sure if this is grammatically proper. I have considered using "She didn't ever want it to fade" instead, but felt that in this case the meaning of "ever" includes the past, present and the future while in the previous example the meaning of "ever" is implied to only include the present and onwards. The meaning I'm going for is that of present and onwards because the thing spoken about (She didn't want it to fade) is a feeling previously unknown to the character, and thus including the past would not make sense. I have two questions then: 1. Is the sentence "She didn't want it to ever fade" grammatically proper? 2. Is there an (implied) difference in the meaning of the word 'ever' between "She didn't want it to ever fade" and "She didn't ever want it to fade"? I hope I had made myself clear, and I'll be happy to clarify if not.

  • There's no difference between want it ever to [end] and want it to ever [end], but the former was always more common (the two are now about equally common though, as per that chart). Much the same applies to I don't ever want it to end, which effectively means the same anyway. Dec 14, 2018 at 18:20
  • @OreOS - " Is there an (implied) difference in the meaning of the word 'ever' between "She didn't want it to ever fade" and "She didn't ever want it to fade"? - In the first, 'ever' applies to the fading (she hoped it would never fade); in the second, 'ever' applies to her wanting (she never felt a desire that it should fade). Dec 14, 2018 at 18:25
  • @FumbleFingers That is interesting to see, thank you for your reply. I'll try to use this tool in the future as well before asking, now that I know of it. MichaelHarvey, this is a brilliant way to put it in words, thank you for your help! This question can be closed as far as I'm concerned.
    – OreOS
    Dec 14, 2018 at 18:32
  • @Michael Harvey: That's really a "syntactic" distinction that I think in practice doesn't actually affect the meaning, as pointed out in my first comment. Anybody saying I don't ever want her to leave me! isn't likely to be trying to convey the fact that of all the things he might want in the future, her leaving him would never be one of them. Dec 14, 2018 at 18:42
  • @FumbleFingers - it's the sort of thing I notice and am careful to avoid. "I don't ever wish Grandma to die" seems to have a more sinister and less creditable air about it than "I don't wish Grandma ever to die". Dec 14, 2018 at 19:25

1 Answer 1

  1. Is "to ever fade" grammatically proper?

Prescriptive style guides are usually fine with it. 18th century erudites like Samuel Johnson were known to dabble in it. This Grammar Girl post provides a fair summary of several grammarians. Even Strunk and White seem okay with split infinitives that improve the sentence's meaning. "To ever fade" is functioning much like other accepted split infinitves like "to boldly go" (Star Trek). So the split infinitive is not as much a matter of being proper as it is a matter of taste.

  1. What's the difference between your two examples?

The literal difference is what ever is modifying: want or fade.

"She didn't ever want it to fade"

Ever modifies the verb phrase did not want. In this sense, it is her desire that is unyielding.

"She didn't want it to ever fade"

Ever modifies the infinitive to fade. In this sense, the important idea is that it never fades.

Taking one more step with either example illustrates how close these two meanings are in practice. What did she not want to happen? It to ever fade. What about it never fading? She doesn't want that. Because most readers don't apply adverbs so strictly that it would affect the meaning here, what we're really debating is small shades of meaning. Either is reasonably clear.

I take your point about whether the items refer to the past, present, and future. I think the first one ("She didn't ever want it to fade") sounds more likely to come from a narrator poised to describe how one's mental state (what she wanted) persisted across time. I think the second one ("she didn't want it to ever fade") could come from any narrator, but would especially be appropriate for describing someone's then-current state. So I agree with you, with the caveat that this is a slim distinction.

  • Thank you for the thorough explanation, it really did help me understand the difference between the two better. I'm glad to hear that it is accepted because I personally try my best to pay attention to these slim details (especially when writing) because I do think it can be used to enhance the meaning of a sentence.
    – OreOS
    Dec 15, 2018 at 0:03

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