I have such sentence:

You said that there were some paid lessons you teach / taught.

How do you say? Teach or taught? I mean that the teacher gives the paid lessons now also.

I know that it's of object relative clauses. And the sentence can be transformed to:

You said that there were some paid lessons which you teach / taught.

And I was told that I should use the past. But in this case all the meaning is staying in the past. I want to say that in the past you said me that you gave some additional paid lessons, but I know now that you give them and now. Maybe it's more logical to use simple perfect?

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    While am not a native speaker, in general you do not need to shift the tense if that situation is still valid in the present. That is why you can hear "You said you will help" where the speakers still expects the help, or "You said you would help me" where the opportunity to help already passed.
    – John V
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 18:10
  • @JohnV: I think very few native speakers would be likely to choose "future" tense You said you will help simply because they wanted to either clarify the fact of having ongoing expectations and/or to reflect some notion of "syntactic correctness". Interesting point, though. Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 18:23
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    @FumbleFingers Well, that I do not know :) I was taught that by native speakers but my reasoning here could be (being not a native speaker myself) flawed. Basically, I was told that "You said you will help me tomorrow" is a normal phrase to be said on the same day the promise was made (hence "tomorrow", not "next day") and if the speaker still expects that to be true.
    – John V
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 18:32
  • ..I meant "the following day"..
    – John V
    Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 18:38
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    @JohnV: I'd certainly agree that if "time of speaking" is closer to the (now "past") time of making the promise than to the anticipated (future) delivery on that promise, native speakers would be far more likely to explicitly use a future tense form. But I think that would probably be just because we wouldn't want to bring in allusions to hypothetical scenarios as reflected in using would rather than will. As in I think John would help (...but only in some specific hypothetical context which might in fact not apply). Commented Jan 21, 2019 at 18:43

1 Answer 1


Because of backshifting (as in You told me last night that you were 18!, where obviously the addressee would still be 18 at time of speaking), it's perfectly natural to use Past Tense taught even when the intended sense is exactly the same as it would be with Present Tense teach (addressee continues to teach some paid lessons).

Of course, the Past Tense would be the only valid choice if the cited text had been in a context where the speaker might reasonably have continued with ...there were some paid lessons you taught when you were living in Oxford several years ago.

For the more likely context it's really just a stylistic choice whether to backshift or not (i.e. - to reflect Past Tense You said that...). A speaker might choose Present Tense to imply greater "immediacy, relevance to current time of speaking" (because speaker is interested in knowing if he can sign up for paid classes right now, perhaps). But it might simply come out that way without him giving it any thought at all.

  • Thanks! so then I can say by this way: You said that there ARE some paid lessons you TEACH".
    – user79871
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 11:39
  • Also can I say such way: You said that there were some paid lessons you HAVE TAUGHT. What variant would you use?
    – user79871
    Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 11:45
  • Sure, you can say either of those (also You said that there are some paid lessons you have taught and even You said that there were some paid lessons you had taught). But as to what I would say, most likely I wouldn't bother with the pointless verbosity of any of these constructions involving there are/were... The issues re choice of tense are just the same with the more direct You said you teach/taught [or more likely give/gave] paid lessons. Where if speaker himself wants paid lessons he might well favour present tense. Commented Jan 22, 2019 at 13:08

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