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I'm from South Asia and we speak in a way directly translated from our language structure so often. If I'm making some request "I'm partnering with Elsa for group discussion right now, let's say I wanted to show her my progress would you like to accompany me to her house?". Is there anything wrong with the sentence especially "..let's say I wanted.." or it should be "..let's say I want.." instead. Thank you

  • There's "Let's say" but the entire run-on sentence doesn't improve if you change it to that. It's hard to tell what you're actually trying to convey. – Tetsujin Jul 17 '18 at 6:34
  • Ok @Tetsujin, I edited my question. – Siti Sal Jul 17 '18 at 6:41
  • If you went up to someone right now and asked the question that appears in quotation marks, then you should use 'want' instead of 'wanted' as 'want' is present tense and 'wanted' is past tense. – James Jul 24 '18 at 15:45
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I think that both uses are fine.

For the most part they mean the same thing, although they could be used to mean slightly different things.

Let's say I wanted . . .

This is being used as a hypothetical. I would use it if I were considering one or another action:

Let's say I wanted to go to the ball—should I wear a regular tie or a bow tie?
If I go to the ball, should I wear a regular tie or a bow tie?

As for the other:

Let's say I want . . .

I would not take this in quite the same hypothetical fashion, but as an assertion.

Let's say I want steak for dinner. I like mine medium rare.
Go ahead and assume I want steak for dinner. I like mine medium rare.

This distinction can be emphasized with the word just:

Let's just say I want steak for dinner.

This sounds normal along with the assertion.

Let's just say I wanted to go to the ball.

This, however, sounds a bit awkward because just isn't normally used in association with a hypothetical.

If I continue this with your example, I might make a slight modification to your phrasing, depending on the use of wanted or want:

  1. Let's say I wanted to show her my progress. Would you [] accompany me to her house?

  2. Let's (just) say I want to show her my progress. Would you like to accompany me to her house?

In the first, as a hypothetical, I dropped the like to because it seems more natural to be asking for a simple consequence. (If I show her my progress, will you accompany me?)

Meanwhile, in the second, showing her my progress is assumed. (Let's assume that I'm showing her my progress. Would you like to accompany me?)


But there is no reason to assume that this distinction will be picked up on and understood. For practical purposes, you can use either let's say I wanted or let's say I want without any difficulty.


Update: It was suggested in a comment that I provide an explanation as to why the different verb forms could lead to different meanings.

Here, let's say I want is in the present tense. When something is in the present tense, it has an immediacy and is used to describe an actual situation.

Meanwhile, let's say I wanted is in the past tense. (Forget for the moment that when used in the hypothetical sense I've described it's actually postulating a future event.) Any verb form that isn't in the present is distanced from it and, therefore, less immediate.

Hypothetical situations are, by their nature, more easily understood when distanced from the present.

So, the present tense here is more suited to an assertion of fact, while the past tense is more suited to the expression of a hypothetical situation.

  • I think the nuance of distinction you describe here is absolutely correct. But unless I missed something, you haven't really explained why native speakers might make such a distinction. To my mind it's pretty straightforward, and explicitly pointing it out might help learners to understand and remember exactly what's going on. Effectively, it boils down to the fact that Past Tense wanted implies "further away" than Present Tense want - which automatically "distances" the scenario being postulated (from reality, time/place of speaking), making it more hypothetical. – FumbleFingers Jul 17 '18 at 13:09
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    @FumbleFingers Noted and updated. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Jul 17 '18 at 13:29
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Is this what you want to say?

"I'm with Elsa in a group discussion right now, and we might discuss my progress with the project at her house later today. Would you like to accompany me to her house?"

I am guessing this is what you meant, but I could be wrong.

  • Yes, and I also want to check if its allowed to use 'wanted' after 'let's say', or its better to say ".. let's say I want.." instead of "let's say I wanted.." – Siti Sal Jul 17 '18 at 7:16

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