Using since and the past

A question about using ‘since’ with the past tense from Sami in Saudi Arabia:

Question

  1. My neighbours are Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez. I have known them ever since I was a child.
  2. My neighbours are Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez. I knew them ever since I was a child.

Which one is correct? with explanation please.

Answer

Hi Sami, first let me tell you that your first sentence is the correct one – ‘ I have known them ever since I was a child‘ – now the ‘why‘ it is correct!

When we talk about something that started in the past and is still going on now we use the Present Perfect tense, in this case the verb ‘to know’ in the Present Perfect is ‘I have known’. Now, the bit that is a bit tricky is the ‘since’.

Your sub-clause ‘ I was a child’ is, if you like, the time marker – it tells us the moment or time when the action started – it is in the Simple Past because that action ‘ being a child‘ is now finished for you but the ‘knowing them‘ is not!  

Your second sentence is not correct because the ‘ever since’ is suggesting an on-going action. If you were to write this using the simple past (I knew them) you would write I knew them when I was a child – here both actions of ‘knowing them‘ and ‘being a child‘ are over.

Further reference

Anthony Hughes
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