I did not know how the word is spelled.


I did not know how the word was spelled.

Could please help me in choosing between the two? Which sentence is incorrect, and if both are acceptable, then which one sounds more natural?

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  • Both are perfectly acceptable and natural. Depending on the context, you might prefer one or the other. – Ronald Sole Jan 5 at 19:27
  • I personally prefer the below to the above, since the both time is equal, past. But the above is fine too. – Kentaro Tomono Jan 5 at 19:31

The only difference is the tense in the verb in the clause "... how the word was/is spelled"

Both choices are correct and idiomatic. Native speakers would probably use both forms interchangeably.

You would use "was" if you are referring to a particular act of writing the word and your action of spelling the word (the action is in the past). If you have written the word incorrectly and are talking about your mistake, this is the most likely tense to use.

Use "is" when talking about the word as it is in general (the word is in the present). Examples of similar expressions:

I lost only one mark, for writing "h-y-p-e-r-b-u-l-e-e", but I'd never been taught how the word was spelled.

"Hyperbole" is an interesting word. I didn't know how the word is pronounced until I was in college.

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