Is my below sentence grammatically correct?

Today was one of those bad days. He was moving fast. He got the news that the jail was under attack and six prisoners had fled the castle.

In "had fled the castle", can I use "has" instead of "had".

This is a part of a story. Is it okay if I use present and past tense in the same the paragraph?

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    No. You couldn't use has with a plural subject like six prisoners. You could say six prisoners have fled the castle - but that would be present perfect rather than pluperfect - and it doesn't fit with the context. – WS2 Apr 28 '17 at 21:21
  • @WS2 : I should have been mentioned "can I use "have" instead of "had"", but I got your point. Thanks. – Abhishek dot py Apr 29 '17 at 7:29

Your sample is entirely correct and grammatically consistent as you wrote it. Past and present tenses can be used in the same sentence, as in

she misses the school that she left last year

they are unwilling to admit that they had been wrong about Bill

but in all such cases the earlier action (earlier in time as the action occurred) must be in the past tense and the later action in the present.

In general, two or more of past, present and future tenses can be used in the same sentence, but whatever be the tenses used, what happened earlier is expected to have an 'earlier tense' than what happens later. (Grammarians please excuse my terminology, as long as I am conveying the correct meaning!)

They insist that they have done their homework.

(Here 'insist' = simple present and 'have done' = present perfect which is the earlier tense of the two, since present perfect comes before simple present. )

She ran into the station but the train had left.

(Ran = simple past and 'had left' = past perfect which comes before simple past)

IN THIS CASE, 'six prisoners fled' occurs before 'he got the news' and so you need to say

"he got the news that (...) six persons had fled the castle.

Here got = simple past and 'had fled' = past perfect.

It also sounds just right as you wrote it and I would advise you not to change the current ('had fled') construction.

HOWEVER, because this is supposed to be fiction, which gives the writer much greater grammatical license, you can actually use the present perfect tense "have fled" as in "he got the news that the jail was under attack and six prisoners have fled the castle", but only if you are very particular, and understand that it is strictly not grammatically correct, and you are willing to knowingly make an error for the sake of getting your intended effect!

Some of the greatest authors have written many grammatically dubious sentences that sounded just right for the specific situation, and some have (unknowingly or knowingly) even made grammatical errors. AT LEAST IN FICTION YOU CAN BE THE MASTER OF YOUR OWN WORK!

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  • earlier action must be in the past tense and the later action in the present. Do you mean earlier in the sentence, or earlier in time? – RaceYouAnytime Apr 28 '17 at 23:33
  • @Race YouAnytime Earlier in time as the event occurred, is my meaning. I HAVE NOW CLARIFIED IT in the answer. (Thanks for pointing it out!) – English Student Apr 28 '17 at 23:35
  • Ah okay, for some reason I interpreted it the other way on my first read. Good answer though. – RaceYouAnytime Apr 28 '17 at 23:45
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    @RaceYouAnytime Thank you! I always say that what we write should be perfectly clear and unambiguous to the reader. That should be our goal in writing, and therefore I am happy that you helped me to make the clarification in my answer. – English Student Apr 28 '17 at 23:49
  • @EnglishStudent: You made a good point. "what happened earlier is expected to have an 'earlier tense' than what happens later". This seems clear to me now. Thanks. – Abhishek dot py Apr 29 '17 at 7:32

Agree with answer above. But ''He was moving fast.'' doesn't make good sense And ''He got the news'' can benefit from description either before that sentence, or the middle.


'He was shocked to get the news that...'


'He got the startling news that ...'

or since they fled before he got the news you can say

'The prison fell under attack, 6 prisoners had fled the castle ... and he was _____ when he got this news''

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