Thursday, June 25, 2009

Always or Ever?

Another request from a comment on a previous post--which demonstrates that I'm more easily prompted into making more posts when people ask questions than when left to my own easily distracted devicesnote. The question is:
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.


Leandro said...

You were so clear!

Thank you very much. Now I can use "ever" and "always" completely aware of their real sense.

congratulations for your interesting and useful blog.

Elf said...

You are quite welcome!

T.Appu said...
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T.Appu said...

Thanks a lot. I am clear now.

Virginia said...

Dear Elf,
I am an Italian college student in foreign languages and I am writing on your blog because there is something about english grammar I can't understand.

As master's thesis project I am preparing a bilingual glossary (english-italian)of earthquake engineering, and I need to specify if english words are [C] or [U].

Since many of the words refer to special languages, it is impossible for me to check grammar information on classical english dictionaries.

I am having troubles with the following terms:

Compression Bending

Is there an online technical dictionary I can check?
Because I didn't find any.
Furthermore, according to you, are these terms countable but commonly used as singular?

Thank you so much for your answer, and compliments for your interesting blog!

Elf said...

I just spent an hour researching & responding at length to your question, and at the end of my work, suddenly all the text in my blog post vanished. I am a very unhappy blogger at the moment, and I am not likely to try to reconstruct it. In short, I suggest trying to contact someone at the USGS to help with your questions (start with their small glossary and try clicking the "contact usgs link in the upper right.
Also try for hints on usage. Also try searching for the terms themselves to see how they're used, e.g., search for "liquefaction" and "liquefactions", or "seismicity" and "seismicities".

Sorry my more length comments are gone. :-(

Virginia said...

Oh... I'm so sorry!
Anyway your advice is really helpful!
I'll try to contact the expert from USGS and I will find some information using the other link.
Thank you so much for answering so promptly!
Your blog is so useful!
Have a nice day!

patrizia said...

Dear Elf,
I enjoy reading your comments, many thanks!!! Now I have a question about the use of present perfect while describing an experience.
In my opinion it is correct to say “I have been to Beijing 2008 Olympic Games”, but I would like to have your comment.
I tend to consider correct also “I have been enrolled in the academic year 1991-1992” since the date belongs to that academic year (as 2008 belongs to the Olympic games in Beijing) that is part of my experience. But in this case I really need your comment.
Thanks again

如何 said...
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Elf said...

I have just deleted a comment posted in chinese; sorry, it might be a useful comment to someone or it could be abusive or spam and I have no way of knowing.

相處 said...
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Anonymous said...

Good fill someone in on and this post helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you as your information.

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Elf said...

I am removing the "weight loss" signed posts because the text content seems mostly random and it includes a link for junk. If you have a real comment, please phrase it carefully and don't include spammy links. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, was really useful.