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I read the paragraph below and I am not sure why we have "were" instead of "are", when the writer is talking about children "nowadays".

Is it because he is talking hypothetically about the future? Can somebody help me out?

With those children, he thought, that wretched woman must lead a life of terror. Another year, two years, and they would be watching her night and day for symptoms of unorthodoxy. Nearly all children nowadays were horrible. What was worst of all was that by means of such organizations as the Spies they were systematically turned into ungovernable savages, and yet this produced in them no tendency whatever to rebel against the discipline of the party.

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    "Children nowadays are horrible" means they are horrible now. "Children nowadays were horrible" means they were horrible in the past. The context is about past. – Raj 33 Jan 13 '18 at 13:24
  • It's really strange as we know that "nowadays" refers to the present time. I've looked up its meaning in all dictionaries but none refers to the past time. – Mido Mido Jan 13 '18 at 13:32
  • "nowadays" refers to the present time. But in the example, "children nowadays" is like a compound noun. (I don't know how to explain this). The whole context/ your paragraph is in past. – Raj 33 Jan 13 '18 at 14:33
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"Nowadays" is not used to refer to the time moment "now" (and not even a second in the past). It has the meaning of a (longer) period of time, similar to "today", "this year"...

The following examples are correct:

  • What did you at school today?

  • We already had a winter this year!

Regarding your example, two things must be noticed:

  1. The set of the story is in the past: "he thought", "would be watching", "was worst", "was that by means...", "were ... turned", "produced".

  2. Nowadays (as explained) is a period of time, not a moment.

Therefore (combining the two observations), it only makes sense to use "children nowadays were" in the respective context.

Out of this context, the same sequence of words might be less appropriate, or even downright incorrect.

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