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I have these 2 examples:

  1. I was sure that you would give me a telegram when you COME to Moscow.
  2. I was sure that she would go to the museum again as soon as she HAD the spare time.

    Why in first example we use present tense after "when" and at the second example we use past tense after "as soon as" ( which is the same expression as "when")

Thanks in advance!

  • send a telegram, not give a telegram. :) – Lambie Feb 16 '18 at 20:56
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The first example would only be valid in one specific context, where

a) The speaker lives in Moscow (otherwise it would be go, not come)
b) The addressee hasn't yet arrived in Moscow
c) The speaker originally assumed the addressee would send a telegram when in Moscow
d) The speaker has since discovered that the addressee doesn't intend to send a telegram

This is a relatively unlikely scenario, so if you know the speaker isn't a native Anglophone you can be pretty sure he's making a mistake, and should have used past tense came.

But it's not the kind of "slip-up" native speakers would be likely to make, so if you know he is one you should assume the above scenario does apply.


Much the same logic applies to the second example, which in principle could also have used present tense ...as soon as she has time. Again, this would imply that even if she does have spare time in the future, she doesn't plan on going the museum - either she's changed her mind, or the speaker has (recently) discovered he was mistaken about her intentions.

  • Come never sounds right here to me. In the scenario you mention, came is correct, not come. I don't know the technical term for it, but it feels like such a sentence would be in what I'd call hypothetical past tense. – tjp Mar 27 '18 at 12:51
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    @tjp: I said the situation defined by a-d above was a relatively unlikely scenario, but obviously it can occur, so I don't see how you can baldly assert came is correct, not come. As I said, a "mainstream" native speaker wouldn't be likely to "accidentally/ungrammatically" use come to reference a (hypothetical or actual) past event (though it certainly could occur deliberately in some dialects). But competent native speakers would quite correctly use come in my scenario. Which is "actual" anticipated future ("hypothetical" if when were changed to if). – FumbleFingers Mar 27 '18 at 13:11
  • Yes, I don't know for sure. I'm not saying it's not technically possible, I'm no professor. But it sounds completely ridiculous to me, no one would ever say that where I'm from. I'm just trying to give the perspective of a native speaker. Technically the sentence Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo is correct, but no one would generate it in real conversation. – tjp Mar 27 '18 at 13:19
  • I should try to be more constructive. This is what one would actually say if they meant what you reference: I was sure that you would give me a telegram once you came to Moscow. – tjp Mar 27 '18 at 13:21
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    @tjp: I may be overstating my case here. I don't necessarily think came would be "incorrect" in the scenario as outlined - mostly I'm concerned to say that I don't think come is incorrect either. In short, it is something of a tough one to fully analyse. I'm seriously considering asking about this on ELU (or maybe precisely this point has already been dealt with over there). – FumbleFingers Mar 27 '18 at 13:46
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1) I was sure that you would give me a telegram when you COME to Moscow.

2) I was sure that she would go to the museum again as soon as she HAD the spare time. [samples]

Let's turn these around for a minute [it's simpler to see]:

1) When you come to Moscow, I was sure you would send me a telegram. [That does not follow the rule for tenses. The ideas must refer to the present or the past, not both times.]

That when is like an IF (first and second conditional), therefore, we get:

When you come to Moscow, I am sure you will send me a telegram.

present after when, or, in the past

When you came to Moscow, I was sure you would send me a telegram.

2) I was sure that she would go to the museum again as soon as she HAD the spare time.

As soon as she had spare time, I was sure she would go to the museum.

That is correct. The entire sentence is in the past.

Compare that to:

As soon as she has spare time, I am sure she will go to the museum.

The overall usage is that either you put an idea in the present and will goes in the main clause, or you put the idea in the past, and would + verb goes in the second clause. Bear in mind that the would in those sentences is the past tense of will.

In these examples, I'd tend to use contractions. you'll and you'd, for example.

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