1) I may never be happier than I am today.

2) I may never be as happy as I am today.

Do these imply than I haven't been happier than/as happy as I am today in the past?

 

3) I may never play better than I played in yesterday's concert.

4) I may never play as well as I played in yesterday's concert.

Do these imply that I haven't played better than/as well as I played yesterday any time before yesterday?

 

Gratefully,

Navi

Original Post

Hello, Navi,

Sentences (1) and (2) are speculating about the extent of your happiness in the future relative to the extent of your happiness today; they do not say or imply anything about the past.

Sentences (3) and (4) are speculating about the quality of your playing in the future relative to the quality of your playing in yesterday's concert; they do not say or imply anything about the quality of your playing before then.

If you wish for the sentences to make a claim about the time preceding the target of the comparisons, English provides a convenient way of doing so. We use a perfective construction ("have" + past participle) following the modal.

1a) I may never have been happier than I am today.
2a) I may never have been as happy as I am today.

3a) I may never have played better than I played in yesterday's concert.
4a) I may never have played as well as I played in yesterday's concert.

I might prefer to use the following phrasing instead:

1b) I don't think I have ever been happier than I am today.
2b) I don't think I have ever been as happy as I am today.

3b) I don't think I've ever played better than in yesterday's concert.
4b) I don't think I've ever played as well as in yesterday's concert.

Thank you very much, David,

I have another question here.

Can we somehow encompass the past and future here.

Is this sentence grammatical:

5) I may never have played better than I played yesterday and I may never play better than I played yesterday In the future either.

Is there a more elegant way to do it? I doubt there is....

It is probably not something one would want to say anyway...

Gratefully,

Navi

 

navi posted:
Can we somehow encompass the past and future here.

Is this sentence grammatical:

5) I may never have played better than I played yesterday and I may never play better than I played yesterday In the future either.

Is there a more elegant way to do it? I doubt there is....

Hello again, Navi,

I've been tinkering with it a bit, and have finally come up with something I like:

6) I may never have played better than I played yesterday, nor may I ever play better again.

That has an elegant ring, doesn't it? I myself rather enjoy saying the sentence. I suppose we have to go light on how we interpret "again." A hard-headed literalist might accuse (6) of implying that one has already played better than one played yesterday! If push came to shove, we might have to adjust "again" to "in the future"; however, I honestly don't think that is necessary.

Thank you very much, David,

I didn't feel anything was 'off' about 'again'. The sentence seems to be perfect to me.

What do you think of:

7) The game I played yesterday might be the best I will ever have played.

or:

8) My performance in yesterday's game might be the best I will ever have.

To me '7' is a bit ambiguous. Are we talking about the game or about how I played?

But what interests me more than that is the tense of the verb. I think in these cases we are encompassing the past and the future. But do the sentences work or have I created something weird by overthinking this?!!!

Gratefully,

Navi

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