His parents usually spent (A)/ their summer in New York (B) / but this year they are spending it in London.(C) No error (D)

What's the error in the above sentence ?

My books says part A is wrong . It says since we are talking about their habitual action we need to use spend, is this correct correction ? I am not a native speaker, to my ears spent sounds fine, may be Use of his is wrong here ?

  • 1
    There are two assertions here being contrasted by but. It might be just about credible to switch from Past to Present Continuous (spent their summer / are spending it) in certain obscure contexts, but I wouldn't count on that. Just be consistent, and use spend for the first occurrence. What is it about his [parents] that bothers you? Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 14:45
  • @FumbleFingers Just like it's wrong to use reflexive pronoun in beginning of sentence (e.g. Myself John ) I thought may be there is an issue with 'his' but from your comment I can conclude I was wrong.
    – user212388
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 15:50
  • Well, here, for example, I could say: Myself, I'm not too sure what I think, where the emphasis provided by the reflexive pronoun more strongly implies in contrast [to what other people think]. But if in your cited context you wanted to emphasise the reference to his parents (as opposed to other parents who might be contextually relevant), you'd use something like His own parents usually [did whatever they usually did]. Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 17:21
  • 1
    based on part C of the sentence, the parents are only going to be spending their summer in London for one year, which implies they are likely to go back to spending it in New York in the future. This implication makes the visits to New York a continuing expectation even though this year they are doing something different. If part C said that the going forward the parents plan to spend their summers in London then the implication would change, and spent in part A would make sense.
    – Brillig
    Commented Jun 9, 2017 at 23:07

2 Answers 2


Here I disagree with the book, and with the answer by fred2. I think both "spend" and "spent" can be correct, but result in differing meaning.

  1. His parents usually spent their summer in New York but this year they are spending it in London.

The parents used to have the habit of spending the summer in New York, but they have stopped that. This year is London, and next year may be somewhere else, but likely not New York.

  1. His parents usually spend their summer in New York but this year they are spending it in London.

New York is the habit, the usual practice. This year is an exception. Next year will likely be new York again.

That said, 2 is more common, and the implication in 1 is a nuance thqt could easily be missed.


I think you book is correct, and part A is wrong. It should be 'usually spend'. Both halves of the sentence need to use the same tense for it to make logical sense. The parents usually spend their holidays [in X], which means they have done so in the past and continue to do so. Spending a holiday in London this year is part of the continuing action of 'spending summers somewhere', so needs to be in the same tense.

That said, it's a tough error to spot even for a native speaker, and it took me about 5 read throughs to spot it.

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