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  1. suprunp's Avatar
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    #1

    "never so" as an intensifier

    May I use the "never so" as an intensifier in this kind of sentences?

    "Even if you were never so smart, you would not be able to understand quantum mechanics."

    "If you hadn't been never so wrong, we might have forgiven you."


    Thanks.

  2. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: "never so" as an intensifier

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    May I use the "never so" as an intensifier in this kind of sentences?

    "Even if you were never so smart, you would not be able to understand quantum mechanics."

    "If you hadn't been never so wrong, we might have forgiven you."


    Thanks.
    No. Given the second half of both your sentences, your first half needs to be in the positive:

    Even if you were incredibly smart, you wouldn't be able to understand quantum mechanics.

    Even if you had been wrong, we might have forgiven you.

    I'm not sure what you meant with your second sentence. Perhaps "Even if you had never been wrong before, we would have forgiven you for being wrong (this time)" - that's my best guess.

    It is possible to use "never" with "even if":

    Even if I had never studied Spanish, I would have known what he was saying simply by looking at the expression on his face.

    Even if I had never owned a cat, I would still think they were beautiful creatures.

    Here, I would say that in both instances it is saying that I did do those things (I have studied Spanish and I have owned a cat) but even if I had never done either of those things, something else would still be possible.

  3. suprunp's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: "never so" as an intensifier

    The reason why I'm asking this question is that I've recently encountered this sentence.

    Even if the existence of such a world were never so well demonstrated, it is certain that knowledge of it would be the most useless of all knowledge [...]
    (Friedrich Nietzsche, "Human, All Too Human", translated by R.J. Hollingdale, "On First and Last Things", # 9)

    As far as I can understand this sentence is supposed to mean "Even if the existence of such a world were so incredibly well demonstrated...", from which I inferred that the "never so" plays a simple role of an intensifier here. Does it mean that this modifier can be used only in sentences second halves of which are in the positive?
    For example:
    "Even if you were never so [=incredibly] smart, your understanding of quantum mechanics would be useless to understand medicine."

    What I meant with my second sentence was:
    "If you hadn't been never so [=so incredibly] wrong, we might have forgiven you."

  4. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: "never so" as an intensifier

    Never so + past participle as an adjective = correct.

  5. suprunp's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: "never so" as an intensifier

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    Never so + past participle as an adjective = correct.
    ever, adv.

    9.b ever so: prefixed in hypothetical sentences to adjs. or advbs., with the sense ‘in any conceivable degree’. Sometimes ellipt. = ‘ever so much’; also dial. in phrases like were it ever so, = ‘however great the need might be’. Similarly, ever such (a).
    ***This expression has been substituted, from a notion of logical propriety, for never so, which in literary use appears to be much older, and still occurs arch., though app. not now known in dialects. See NEVER.

    never, adv.

    4. never so, in conditional clauses, denoting an unlimited degree or amount. (Cf. EVER 9 b.)

    (OED)

    Why "never so" can only be prefixed to past participle as an adjective and "ever so", which has been substituted for the former, can be prefixed to adjectives and adverbs as well?

    Thanks.

  6. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: "never so" as an intensifier

    I didn't mean that was the only way. You can use it with adjectives, but with verbs, structured as you have it, it seems to make good clear sense only with a comparative and past participles.

  7. 5jj's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: "never so" as an intensifier

    In addition to what has already been been written, I'll just say that, in comparatively rare constructions such as this , it is not always easy to establish what is acceptable and/or possible. Because they are comparatively rare, we tend to assume, when we do encounter them, that the writer/speaker who has used them has done so in exactly the same way as we would - but we have no way of knowing this. Alternatively, we use logic to decide that a particular expression is - or cannot be - acceptable.

    At the risk of going off-topic, I will just mention that this thread reminds me of:

    I wouldn't (/shouldn't) be surprised if John didn't come.

    In logical terms, the speaker means (in the appropriate context) that s/he would be surprised if John did come. We teachers and academics may pontificate about this being illogical/substandard but, while it is certainly not acceptable in (semi-)formal writing, it is , in my opinion, natural and acceptable in normal speech.

  8. BobK's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: "never so" as an intensifier

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    ever, adv.

    9.b ever so: prefixed in hypothetical sentences to adjs. or advbs., with the sense ‘in any conceivable degree’. Sometimes ellipt. = ‘ever so much’; also dial. in phrases like were it ever so, = ‘however great the need might be’. Similarly, ever such (a).
    ***This expression has been substituted, from a notion of logical propriety, for never so, which in literary use appears to be much older, and still occurs arch., though app. not now known in dialects. See NEVER.

    never, adv.

    4. never so, in conditional clauses, denoting an unlimited degree or amount. (Cf. EVER 9 b.)

    (OED)

    Why "never so" can only be prefixed to past participle as an adjective and "ever so", which has been substituted for the former, can be prefixed to adjectives and adverbs as well?

    Thanks.
    Wrong way round, I think (I'd have to check the dates, but my impression is that 'never so' predates 'ever so' in this usage).*

    Consider this:

    In his performance, never had he done so well -> he had done never so well

    Some users (perhaps users of English as a second language...?) felt - like emsr2d2, quite reasonably - that a positive was needed: hence 'ever so' as an intensifier (which doesn't make a lot of sense when you think about, but who cares? )

    b

    PS * I suspect I've misread you; still, the rest is worth keeping.
    Last edited by BobK; 13-Jul-2011 at 15:16. Reason: Added PS

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