In the two following sentences, it is correct to use present tense to express the future

I hope they are working hard tonight.

Students who graduate three years later will work in that factory.

But if I change the tense of main clauses to the past tense, it can be used in the same way?

I hoped they were working hard at that night.

After the college entrance examination, students who graduated three years later would work in that factory.

Can these two subordinate clauses express the past future?

Because I know if you change "If it rains,(tomorrow will rain) I won't go outside."

to the past"If it rained, I wouldn't go outside" means"At that time, it already rained, and I wouldn't go outside"

like: She had had dinner before her father left.(father left?) She had had dinner before her father was going to leave(father left?)

But if we say : She have had dinner before her father leaves(This one means her father will leave)

Thanks a lot!

  • 1
    I am not sure about your paraphrase on the conditional having past tenses. that is to say, "if past, bla bla would infinitive" is an unreal conditional IMHO.
    – Cardinal
    Oct 1, 2016 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


Your tenses are fine. I will rewrite your sentences just a little bit to make them more natural sounding to my ear.

I hoped they were working hard

Students who graduated three years after taking the college entrance examination would work in that factory.

The second sentence sounds a little weird, but I've seen sentences like this in the beginning of biographies. It sounds like a foreshadowing.

  • Thanks so much for your help! But "I hoped they were working hard" means "I hoped they would be working hard" or“I hoped they were working hard at that time?" "who graduated" means "who would graduate" or"who already graduated"?
    – moyeea
    Oct 2, 2016 at 5:28
  • @moyeea - I don't understand what you're asking in the comment. Can you add a new section to your Question, to clarify the issues?
    – J. Doe
    Oct 2, 2016 at 18:54
  • Could you please help me check the final two sentences that I added have the same meaning? That is what I want to ask.
    – moyeea
    Oct 2, 2016 at 19:01

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