I have recently come across this question in a foreign English-Exam:

Choose the correct tense:

The psychiatrist ... (treat) the young addict for two weeks. He is sure that he ... (can) help him.

My first instinct was to complete the sentence as follows:

The psychiatrist has been treating the young addict for two weeks. He is sure that he will be able to help him.

However, after thinking about it for a second, is this sentence also correct?

The psychiatrist has treated the young addict for two weeks. He is sure that he was able to help him.

Are both versions correct? It seemed to be as the instructions for this question suggested that there is only one correct solution. If so, which one is it?

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  • 4
    This is common with substandard English texts (and examinations). In fact, there are always thousands of ways in which one can present a concept in any language. The idea of "one correct way" is just convenience for the schoolteacher or the test designer, who may well not know English that well. – John Lawler Apr 23 '18 at 18:26
  • @JohnLawler Thank you John. So do you suggest both versions are correct? – DerGoliHerr Apr 23 '18 at 18:28
  • Yes, and others as well. – John Lawler Apr 23 '18 at 19:46
  • 2
    The exam question would have been more appropriately phrased "choose correct tenses"—as has been said, there are many. And the two verbs don't both have to use the same tense. – Jason Bassford Apr 23 '18 at 21:28

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