I would like to know what is the difference in use between "ever" and "always", for example, in sentences like these:
- "This is the experience I have ever wanted"
- "This is the experience I have ever dreamt".
In short, the distinction is:
* always: at all times.
* ever: at any time.
Consider the difference between these:
- Have you ever eaten ketchup on vanilla ice cream? [Have you, at any time in your life, eaten ketchup on vanilla ice cream?]
- Have you always eaten ketchup on vanilla ice cream? [I notice that, each time you have vanilla ice cream, you put ketchup on it; have you done so at all times in the past?]
Therefore, when you have wanted something at all times in your life so far, it is "the experience that I have always wanted" or "the experience I have always dreamed of [dreamt of]."
OK, now you actually have the experience, and it is better than expected. Here, the difference between ever and always is still useful, but more subtle:
- If, every time you imagined the experience, you imagined it in basically the same way (at all times, you imagined it the same way), you might say that it is "better than I always imagined."
- However, if you imagined it in several slightly different ways, and it is better than any of those ways, you might say that it is "better than I ever imagined" (better than, at any time, I imagined it).
- Or even--if you could never in your wildest dreams have imagined how good it would be--"better than I ever could have imagined".
So here's wishing all of you the experiences that you have always wanted and hoping that they are better than you ever imagined. And, if you ever put ketchup on your vanilla ice cream, write and let me know whether it is worse than I ever could have imagined.
noteMaybe someday I'll look into the origins of the idiomatic phrase "left to my own devices"--if it ever occurs to me again to do so, because I almost always forget these things the next day.