Okay, for example

The bar magnet is moved back and forth.

Why is 'moved' used? Since it is a present tense, should it be 'move' instead?

Why are you wrong?
Why were you wrong?

Like because I asked my classmate when we were looking at our papers but then I asked him ‘why are you wrong?’ then I suddenly doubt about it since he had made the mistake earlier, should it be ‘why were you wrong?’

  • 3
    You have two questions here. It may be more helpful to others if you split them into separate questions, even though they are both about tense.
    – Mick
    Sep 24, 2016 at 7:02
  • 3
    "The bar magnet moves back and forth" is also present tense. Both versions are present tense; the original version is in the passive voice instead of the active. In the second instance, either version is fine. Real people speaking real languages (like your classmate) frequently use constructions that are not described as "correct" in one grammar book or the other, but which make perfect sense. Get used to it, because there is no People's Commissariat of Proper English Usage to which he can be reported. Sep 24, 2016 at 8:04
  • The first half of the question is similar to this question: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/16398/… Sep 24, 2016 at 9:48
  • Moved here is a past participle that functions as an adjective Sep 24, 2016 at 10:55

1 Answer 1


Your classmate made the mistake earlier (in the past) but your classmate is still wrong in the present. Thus, you can say either sentence. Why were you wrong? asks about the past mistake. Why are you wrong? asks about the classmate's present state of being wrong.

As for 'The bar magnet is moved back and forth', this is present tense. But is moved back and forth is a passive construction. This is different from the active construction 'The bar magnet moves back and forth'. The past simple of your sentence would be 'The bar magnet was moved back and forth' (passive) or 'The bar magnet moved back and forth' (active).

If you don't understand the difference between an active construction and a passive construction, you might want to check out The English Club's pages about the subject.

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