I would like to know if the sentence in the title of this thread is correct.

"I have never seen any thieves in this town in the past 50 years."

Here I used "never" instead of "have not" because I think that since I have been living here for just 50 years. If I used "have not", it would mean that I saw some thieves longer ago, maybe 60 years ago.

Have I distinguished between them correctly?

Any answers are welcome.

  • 1
    I would have used "have not". Or "... never ... in the 50 years I've lived here". – Hot Licks Jun 15 at 12:19
  • It's 'correct' (grammatically), but @Hot Licks gets the marks for his idiomatic versions. Another possibility is 'I"ve not seen a single thief in this town during the 50 years I've been living here'. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 15 at 12:38
  • Whether you use never or not in this context has no particular implications for whether something did happen before the specified period. It's purely a stylistic choice which you use. If someone says I've never / not sucked a nipple since I was a baby, it's pragmatically likely (but not certain) with both forms that he was in fact breast-fed as a baby. But if he says I've never / not used a London black cab since I moved here 10 years ago, it's quite likely with both versions that he never used a black cab before that either. – FumbleFingers Jun 15 at 12:38
  • Thank you all for replying. Here I just came up with a new example: "The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was something that Japan hadn't/never experienced in the past 2500 years." Which one do you think is more preferable? – Chien Te Lu Jun 15 at 16:04
  • 1
    was unlike anything Japan had ever experienced previously. I think the issue with your original Q is to do with the difference between for 50 years and in 50 years. Only the former implies that whatever you are talking about last happened 50 years ago. – Minty Jun 15 at 16:39

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