If talking about the ex experience , the verb and be-verb of the context should always be past tense ? For ex. If I am talking about my ex experience of meeting an exchange student with my friend . In my conversation : I met an exchange student when I was in university and we became friends . (1)She "was " Japanese . (2)She really "liked" Snoopy , so before she came back to Japan , I bought a Snoopy doll as gift to her.
I used ". " because I was not I should use past tense or present tense there . What confuse me is if I use "was" in sentence (1) , dose it mean she is not Japanese now ? And for sentence (2), if I use "liked " , does it mean I thought she may not like Snoopy now ?(But I am quite sure she still like Snoopy now)

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    Note that we do not use ex to mean "former" or "past" in this sort of context. Ex designates a former role which has ended--ex-president, ex-boyfriend--but an "experience" is permanent, and it is not a role. Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 13:48
  • Hi , StoneyB , thank you for noticing it. So can I say " former experience " ? Or just "experience " is ok? Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 15:42
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    I'd say "past experience", to distinguish it from something which you are "experiencing" now. An experience is an event, located at a specific time, but it results in an "experienced" state which is permanent. :) Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 16:04

1 Answer 1


The use of the past tense in those examples, to me as a native speaker, implies that your interactions with that person have now ended.

If, however, you used the present tense, then that implies that you still talk to/see that person. For example:

I met an exchange student in university. She really likes Snoopy.

The act of meeting the person obviously happened in the past, and needs the past tense, but she still likes Snoopy.

I met an exchange student in university. She really liked Snoopy.

This version with the past tense would be used if either she no longer likes Snoopy, or you do not know if she still likes Snoopy for some reason, such as you no longer talk.

I met an exchange student in university. She was Japanese.

Here, a person's nationality isn't (normally) going to change, so the past tense implies that you don't talk to this person any more.

  • Hi , Dan , thank you so much for your explanation, . It really helps a lot . So if I still keep in touch with her , then I should use She "is " Japanese , right ? Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 10:42
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    I think this is right. Using the past tense does create ambiguity with "used to like snoopy". Despite this, I think we still like to use past tense here because it's best practice to continue in the past tense when reporting speech. I suspect that "She was Japanese" feels more distant is because it's in the style of "She stated that she was Japanese.", which (as you point out) doesn't suggest a continuing relationship.
    – Nathan
    Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 10:48
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    @ChengShihMing Correct, yes.
    – Dan
    Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 11:40
  • I wouldn't automatically infer that they don't talk anymore. I would only infer that she's not physically around anymore. Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 17:25
  • Meanwhile, I would definitely agree with @NathanCooper here re: continuing in the past tense in cases of reported speech. Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 17:27

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