I would like to know whether my brother's answer is right.

The question is to find two errors and correct them based on the dialog.


G: Hi, I'm looking for a T-shirt. Which T-shirt do you recommend?
M: I recommend this green one. It's our most popular model.
G: Do you have it in another size?
M: Yes. We have four sizes. Would you prefer a smaller or a bigger one?
G: I'd prefer a smaller one.
M: Then what about this T-shirt? It's the smallest of the four sizes, and it's on sale now.
G: That's just what I need. I'll take it.
M: Ok. Do you need anything else?
G: No, thank you. That's all.

-> I bought this green T-shirt today. It's a popular model, and it comes in four different colors. I chose one that is not on sale. I think I made a perfect choice.

So, my brother corrected (colors -> sizes) and (is not -> was). But his teacher said that the second one was incorrect because my brother should have changed "is not" just into "is".

If "is not" is changed into "was", is it incorrect? Rather I thought that answer is more accurate.

  • 2
    Using was in that context would be quite unremarkable. Despite that, on English tests, what's grammatical and what makes sense and is felicitous in a given context doesn't often make the answer key.
    – user3395
    May 2, 2018 at 10:33

3 Answers 3


It is arguably more correct to use was than is.

I bought this green T-shirt today. It's a popular model, and it comes in four different colors. I chose one that is not on sale. I think I made a perfect choice.

Highlighted, are the key indicators that this sentence is talking about an action in the past (you bought the t-shirt previously, you are not currently buying it).

As such, it would be idiomatic to use the past tense was not on sale rather than is not on sale.

However, it is fine to mix the tenses through this paragraph. It may be a little odd, but it does have a different implication. Here's a breakdown for each point:

I bought this green T-shirt today.

This will always be past tense, the t-shirt purchase happened previously.

It's a popular model, and it comes in four different colors.

It definitely was a popular model, and came in four different colours at the time of purchase. As such, you can definitely change this to past tense if you prefer (it was a popular model).

If you keep it in present tense (it is a popular model), you are saying that it is still a popular t-shirt, and assuming that the colours are still available. If this is fairly recent, that's a normal assumption to make. There's nothing wrong with either choice here, but present implies you think these things haven't changed since you purchased it.

I chose one that is not on sale. I think I made a perfect choice.

Again, you can definitely get away with using present tense is not on sale. However, this is implying there is still no sale and also goes against the use of chose in the past tense.

Here, I would agree with your brother. It's more idiomatic to talk about how the t-shirt was not on sale when you picked it out.

Of note, a time you might want to say it is on sale, rather than was on sale - is if you're talking about a decision you're still thinking about. For example: "I'm considering choosing this one as it is on sale.", where the entire phrase is in the present tense.


Actually the teacher's initial summary of the question can be backshifted. When narrating past events it's common to use the past tense even for things which may still be true.

I bought this green T-shirt today ... I chose one that wasn't on sale

Isn't on sale is fine, since it implies the item is still on sale -- but changing it to the past tense doesn't mean that it's no longer on sale. It only means it was on sale at the time.

So your brother's change is fine. To be honest, this shows that the question is poorly worded and that the teacher should recognize that either answer -- is or was -- is acceptable English. But sometimes English teachers can get caught up in the details and forget they're supposed to teach how to use the language the way native speakers do.


"Is" would be the more appropriate answer. In order to have 'was' be the more appropriate answer the sentence would need to read as this, "I bought this green T-shirt today. It's WAS a popular model, and it CAME in four different colors (sizes). I chose one that WAS not(take out is not) on sale. I think I made a perfect choice. Since the sentence does not have the key words as past tense, then the words is not should also not be in past tense as WAS but should instead match the rest of the sentence and be IS.

  • 1
    I'm not sure I understand your answer (or maybe I don't understand the OP's question). The answer sentence says "I chose" - that's past tense, so was sounds more appropriate to this US English speaker, because the shirt was on sale at the time it was bought.
    – stangdon
    May 2, 2018 at 14:09
  • Yes, that's the way I understood. I also thought that way. So.. I am confused... How can I persuade him? I understand the intention of the teacher. Maybe his question focused only on the contents not the tense. Nevertheless I thought "was" sounds more appropriate, too.
    – plzhelpme
    May 2, 2018 at 16:10
  • the entire thing is kind of not appropriate because part of it is past tense wording and some is present wording. that indicates that is is a trick question and the instructor seems to be looking to see if students paid attention to something that was in the lessons of the week, likely.
    – Dody Be.
    May 3, 2018 at 7:25
  • Allow me to try to explain it again, but i don't know the proper words used in english classes.
    – Dody Be.
    May 3, 2018 at 8:00
  • I don't think it's a trick question at all, and mixing past tense and present tense in a single sentence or paragraph is perfectly appropriate if the situation calls for it: I bought this shirt today (because the buying was in the past) and it comes in four colors (because that's a general statement of fact).
    – stangdon
    May 3, 2018 at 15:25

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