I am reading the book 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat' by Oliver Sacks. On page 104 there is this sentence:

Feeling that Ray also had such possibilities in him, that, despite his own words, he was not incorrigibly centred on his own disease, in an exhibitionistic or narcissistic way, I suggested that we meet weekly for a period of three months.

Neither before or after this sentence is the present tense used, that is, he is narrating a story in the past. Is this a mistake, or actually we can use the present tense in the past to describe a routine (even if that routine no longer exists in the present)?

  • 1
    It's not the present tense, it's the infinitive. They just happen to look the same here. – stangdon Mar 3 '18 at 13:23
  • Not an infinitive. Infinitives do not have subjects – eques Mar 5 '18 at 14:53

The problem you adressed is in connection with the use of the verb suggest.

There are many possible alternatives:

He suggested that Mary should leave earlier.

He suggested leaving earlier. (the subject is also part of leaving)

He suggested that Mary left. (NOT He suggested Mary to leave earlier.)

However, there's still another option for the use of suggest:

I suggest that you do this exercise at home. (Present Subjunctive is used in case of direct demand or suggestion)

  • Thank you:) But your in your last example did you want to write I suggest that you do this exercise at home. or I suggested that you do this exercise at home. ? – viery365 Mar 3 '18 at 13:14
  • To be more precise, this is the present Subjunctive – eques Mar 5 '18 at 14:29

I suggested that we meet weekly for a period of three months.

meet in this sentence is not the present tense but the infinitive.

Thanks @stangdon for your comment.

  • That's not an inifinite as it is governed by a subject "we" – eques Mar 5 '18 at 14:29
  • In my country it is the Past imperfect of subjunctive, so I supposed that in English it would be past tense. That's why the question. Why is this verb in the present tense? – viery365 Mar 5 '18 at 14:36
  • English has two forms of the subjunctive, but we use the present subjunctive with commands since the occur in the future relative to the time of speaking. – eques Mar 5 '18 at 14:54
  • Thank you:) btw, if you do it in form of answer I will accept it:) – viery365 Mar 5 '18 at 17:37
  • Just to clarify (because I am not sure if it will influence a potential answer), this sentence refers to something that does not include the present(time of the narration)- The period of three months is already gone. The narration is totally centred in the past. Thank you in advance. – viery365 Mar 5 '18 at 18:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.