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I'm really confused with the usage of "in the morning" in these two sentences.

The sentence pattern on the text book is "What do you do in the morning? I clean the room in the morning?". However, some people tell me it's wrong as "in the morning" indicates past tense, so it should be "What did you do in the morning? I cleaned the room in the morning."

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  • Welcome to ell, It depends on the context, both are correct. You should say what do you want to convey at first place. Please edit the question to include your intended sentence.
    – Cardinal
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 5:34

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This isn't actually a question of correctness at all, and anyone who thinks it is just isn't thinking quite widely enough. Instead, both phrasings are perfectly valid, but mean different things.

"What do you do…" is talking about your habits, or something that is characteristically true. It's using the present tense in a situation where the usual meaning (talking about something right this minute) can't apply, so instead English gives it the meaning of talking about something that could be true at this moment because it's currently in the state of being true routinely. In other words, this is really the same as asking "What do you do every morning?" And it's perfectly possible to clean the room every morning… or to intend to, but only do it some or most of the time.

"What did you do…" is simpler. It's just talking about what happened during the morning that you most recently experienced. If you did in fact clean the room this morning, you could say so, but it doesn't imply anything about what you did the day before or plan to do tomorrow morning.

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  • Because "What did you do in the morning" refers to a particular morning, it is natural to specify which morning you mean. "What did you do this morning?", for example, or "What did you do Monday morning?", or "What did you do on the morning of December 22nd?"
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 6:25
  • It could also refer to a morning belonging to a specific day that has been previously discussed: "I noticed that on Monday you didn't show up at work until after lunchtime. What did you do in the morning?" Commented Mar 1, 2018 at 17:57

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