I'm learning English and I have a question.

I'm doing English exercises with my book American Cutting Edge 4, and in one activity I have to change the sentence, using a word in bold.

You'll be in Madrid again phone me then - I have to make a new complete sentence with the adverb when.

I want to know which of these it is correct to say:

  1. Phone me when you were in Madrid again.

  2. Phone me when you are in Madrid again.

  • 1
    Agreement of tenses, "were" is the past whereas "phone me" is the present. Only your second sentence is correct. Dec 23, 2017 at 14:10
  • 1
    Of course when this is pronounced out loud, it sounds like "when you're...", which is easy to mistake for "you were".
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 23, 2017 at 14:21
  • You could modify it: I wanted you to phone me when you were in Madrid again.
    – Davo
    Dec 23, 2017 at 14:28
  • @Davo That has a completely different meaning.
    – Mr Lister
    Dec 23, 2017 at 14:38
  • In AmE, it would more likely be call me and not phone me, most likely. Phone me in the present can only be followed by when you are.
    – Lambie
    Dec 23, 2017 at 15:08

3 Answers 3


SovereignSun is correct and it's about agreement of tenses, plus simple logic. If you are asking someone to call you when they next visit Madrid, then they can't logically do so in the past:

Please call when you are next in Madrid.

Please call the next time you come to Madrid.

The next time you visit Madrid, please give me a call.

and so on.

The only time "were" is appropriate to describe future events is in conditional sentences, which describe hypothetical or unreal events:

If you were in Madrid, you could give me a call.


Phone me when you were in Madrid again.

Phone me when you are in Madrid again.

There are two clauses in the sentences presented; "Phone me" is a main clause, and "when you are/were in Madrid again" is a subordinate clause that begins with the conjunction "when".

If you are talking about the future, you use the present tense, not the past tense, in the subordinate clause (when-clause). For example:

I'll phone you when I get home.

So the first sentence with "were" is ungrammatical, and the second sentence with "are" as follows is grammatical:

Phone me when you are in Madrid again.


Agreement of tenses in English is a must for sentences to be grammatical. The word "again" doesn't play a big role here since even without it the sentence should still be properly written in terms of tenses.

  • Phone me when you were in Madrid.

Notice that the first action isn't in the Past whereas the second one is. This doesn't make any sense and is plain wrong. To correct this you should change the verbs.

  • (Subject) + phoned me when you were in Madrid. (non-imperative)
  • Phone me when you are in Madrid. (imperative)

Are both correct.

  • 3
    "Call me" is in the imperative mood, likewise "phone me" but if you place the verb in the simple past tense, it is no longer imperative. You cannot order, instruct, or strongly suggest that someone do something in the past. Don't feed the animals when you go to the zoo is correct, NOT Didn't feed the animals when you went to the zoo So the first sentence needs to be rephrased, a subject is needed "He phoned me when/while you were in Madrid" is correct.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 24, 2017 at 0:40
  • @Mari-LouA, I respect your enlightening comments.
    – Khan
    Dec 24, 2017 at 5:52

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