Consider these two sentences:

"I thought I flushed that in toilet."


"I thought I flush that in toilet."

Is this appropriate to use "thought" with "flushed"? Both are past tenses.

  • Why do you think it would be inappropriate? – Alexander Jul 26 '17 at 18:01
  • Welcome to ELL.SE. It would help to edit your post to explain the situation you are trying to describe. Neither sentence as you have provided them is idiomatic; theoretically, either I thought I flushed that down the toilet or I thought I flush that down the toilet could be correct, but they mean different things. I strongly encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for additional guidance on asking questions. – choster Jul 26 '17 at 18:02
  • All singular, uncountable nouns in English must have a determiner such as an article. There is only one noun in your sentence. Do you know what it is? – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Jul 26 '17 at 18:21

In this case,

I think I flushed that down the toilet.

is pretty much the exact same as

I thought I flushed that down the toilet.

These words/tenses are used in so many different contexts and with so many different intentions that it's too difficult to generalize on how to use them for all cases and still make an accurate statement. But @A.Galloway was correct; you should add "down".

Lastly, maybe some people will use the past tense (thought) to imply some kind of confidence, suggesting that at an earlier point in time they made a conscious effort to verify that "it" was flushed. Conversely, people may use the present tense (think) to purposely include uncertainty, as if it's their first time thinking about whether or not "it" was actually flushed or not.

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    To add to this, I think the implication with the past tense is that something occurred to challenge the speaker's belief that the action occurred. Otherwise, they would simply assert "I flushed that down the toilet". – chepner Jul 26 '17 at 20:02

When constructing a sentence in English, matching tenses are necessary to avoid grammatical errors. When you use the word "thought", that means you are using the past tense. That means that you need to conjugate all you other verbs the same way. In your case, you would need to use "thought" and "flushed". Remember, however, that you need a preposition and an article for the word "toilet". The correct sentence would be:

I thought I flushed that down the toilet.

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    You're quite right that grammatically speaking your version is correct = error-free. But there aren't that many contexts where it would be correct = appropriate (too coarse for many situations, and probably excessively belittling for many contexts where somewhat crude language might otherwise be acceptable). – FumbleFingers Jul 26 '17 at 18:39
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    I don't think your rationale (matching tenses are necessary; you need to conjugate all you other verbs the same way) always holds true. For example, there is nothing wrong with saying, "I think I flushed that down the toilet," (present/past) or, "I think I will flush that down the toilet" (present/future). – J.R. Jul 26 '17 at 19:13
  • @J.R. Right, the sentence "I thought I would flush that down the toilet tomorrow, but I changed my mind" is grammatically fine, albeit somewhat strange. – Andrew Jul 26 '17 at 21:03
  • @Andrew - Sure, that one is a little bit strange, but this one isn't: I thought I would travel to New York next weekend, but I changed my mind. – J.R. Jul 26 '17 at 21:44

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