I have some feelings (through the ways they answered my question) that some native speakers always think the following:

If we say "I was happy yesterday", that implies "I am not happy today"?

Maybe my feeling was wrong.

The USE 1: Simple past is used to show a completed action in the past & we know the time that the action completed.Source

I saw a movie yesterday.

The USE 2: But the Simple Past can also be used to describe past facts or generalizations which are no longer true. Source

So, when we say "He didn't like tomatoes before.", we imply that "Now he likes tomatoes"

Now, come back to the sentence "I was happy yesterday". It could mean:

The USE 1: that feeling completed in the past (Maybe, my girlfriend kissed me yesterday & therefore I felt happy at that time). But, today "I am still happy" (Maybe because I won a lottery, for example).

The USE 2: when you say "I was happy yesterday" you may contrast with the current situation. It could mean "I was happy yesterday but today I am not happy".

So, If I say "I was happy yesterday", does that always imply "I am not happy today"?

Also, What about "I was married 2 years ago."?

Let say 2 years ago I got a wedding with a lady & now that lady & I still live happily together. We can say "I am married" = "I have a wife now".

But can we say "I was married 2 years ago." but Now "I am still married". Does "I was married 2 years ago." imply "I divorced"?

2 Answers 2


There's implies, and then there's entails. When you say "always implies", I think you mean "entails".

Without further context, the sentence

I was happy yesterday.

implies but does not entail that your period of happiness has ended.

Implication and inference are soft, fuzzy things. That's the reason that we have those two words: I can imply something that you don't manage to infer. I can infer something that you don't mean to imply. There is no necessary connection between them.

Entailment is an essential, unavoidable thing. It's a consequence. If one thing entails another, that relationship is as strong and as certain as the relationship between cause and effect.

I am miserable today. I have no idea why. I was happy yesterday.

I was happy yesterday. I am happy today. I plan to still be happy tomorrow.

Context makes a difference. In the first series, today's misery stands in contrast to yesterday's happiness. We are certain that the period of happiness has ended. In the second, there is only one period of happiness that extends from the past, through the present, and possibly into the future.

I would not expect any native speaker to have a problem with either series of sentences above.

  • It might be worth noting Grice's maxim of relation - where one tries to be relevant, and says things that are pertinent to the discussion. Granted, "happiness" is a somewhat flexible state (I'm not happy usually means I'm unhappy, but it's perfectly possible to say I'm not unhappy, but I'm not happy either). But unless the speaker's state of mind yesterday is being implicitly contrasted with how he is today, it makes about as much sense as, say, I was 6 feet tall yesterday (and as you can see, I still am). Jul 25, 2017 at 15:57
  • A comedian says "I used to do drugs -- still do, but I used to". Funny, but (I assume intentionally) wrong. There is an entailment there -- "used to" is used when the custom or habit has ended. That's different than "I did drugs -- still do, but I did". The relevant distinction is that "I did drugs" merely implies that you stopped, but "I used to do drugs" entails that you stopped -- even if you've started again. Jul 25, 2017 at 16:29
  • Yeah, well - like I say, "being happy" is flexible as to whether that it's a relatively continuous state (I didn't like my old job, but I'm happy working here) or a short-lived response to something ephemeral (I'm happy to see you still know how to treat a lady!). And even your I did drugs could be ...for years or ...only once. Jul 25, 2017 at 18:17
  • The question is whether saying that I was in some state yesterday always implies that I am not in the same state today. We could make Futurama's Hermes Conrad very proud by saying "yes", or we can give a useful answer. The remaining relevant points are that "implies" does not mean "entails" and that the simple past tense, no matter how strongly it implies an end, doesn't entail one. On that note, I hope to leave the substance and nature of happiness to philosophers and neuroscientists. Jul 26, 2017 at 0:47
  • My first thought on reading the actual question was "This is more to do with common sense than the use of English" (or any other language, come to that). In which context I note that as of right now no-one (even you, who posted an answer) has upvoted the question. But your "implies / entails" distinction is so relevant (sorry! :) that I'll probably end up closing some future "Does X always imply Y?" questions in favour of this one. It really is a point well made, with or without explicit reference to Grice. Jul 26, 2017 at 13:39

In conversations one generally expects the other party to provide complete information.

Consider these examples:

  1. Did you like the meal [Burger, Fries and Salad]? - I liked the salad.
  2. Do you like Star Wars? - I like the original trilogy.
  3. Are you [generally] happy? - I was happy yesterday.

The question is about a larger scope, the answer takes extra effort (i.e. is not simply "yes") to narrow the scope to one aspect. This implies that what is asked is not true in general (or at least requires qualification).

It could also be interpreted as evasion:

  1. Do you have a car? - I have a bike.
  2. Do you have children? - I have a dog.
  3. Are you married [now]? - I was married two years ago.

Again, you put in extra effort (both in terms of extra words and in terms of letting the conversation not go as smoothly) to not say yes, so it is implicitly negates the original question.

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