I am sorry that I could not see you before leaving my old place, but I will soon visit the area to deal with the last few things there and I hope to see you then.

My question is whether the above sentence is correct or not? I am confused about the use of future tense in the 2nd sentence.Is it Ok to link two sentences like this or should I separate them?

  • "I'm sorry, I couldn't see you before leaving my old place. However, I will visit the area soon to deal with the last few things there, and I hope to see you then." A comma is necessary between independent clauses. Also, splitting sentences with periods don't necessarily mean the end of the idea or speech. But why are you confused by the use of future tense? – Tasneem ZH Feb 19 '19 at 18:24
  • I often get confused when I use present or future tense after "a clause with past tense" in it. For example, see the below sentence; I could not see you before leaving my old place, but I will soon visit the area again. In my opinion, "I will soon visit" should be replaced by "I would soon visit" because there is a past tense in the first clause. Is it correct? Please clarfiy :) & Thanks for your comments and rephrasing – Iqbal Feb 19 '19 at 18:45
  • Using "would" instead of "will" won't make it in the past tense but would make it with less probability than will since "would" as "could" has many possible meanings. In your example, the first part is a present apology for an action that happened in the past. After that, the second part, which is a future wish, comes. Notice that it is an independent sentence, so it can actually come alone without the previous speech in a suitable form based on the purpose of writing it. – Tasneem ZH Feb 19 '19 at 19:19
  • @TasneemZh A comma is not always necessary between independent clauses separated by a conjuction. It's a matter of style. If there is no confusion, omitting the comma is acceptable. I dropped to the floor and covered my ears is short, succinct, and understandable without the comma. You don't have to put a comma before the and in that sentence. This is backed up by The Chicago Manual of Style and other grammar guides. (Although what is short, succinct, and understandable enough without a comma may be a matter of opinion.) – Jason Bassford Feb 19 '19 at 21:23
  • Just as long as there's at least one of comma or conjunction - otherwise you get a run-on sentence. – SamBC Feb 19 '19 at 21:27

I am sorry that I could not see you before leaving my old place but I will soon visit the area to deal with the last few things there and I hope to see you then.

The sentence is a compound sentence (at least two independent clauses). This one has three:

1) I am sorry that I could not see you before leaving my old place [clause 1]
but [conjunction]
2) I will soon visit the area to deal with the last few things there
and [conjunction] 3) I hope to see you there.

The entire paragraph flows fine. The fact there is a future in the second clause is simply not a problem and it refers to a future intention that is undefined and is related to the first one in terms of information.

There is no need to put a comma before or after a conjunction like but that connects two independent clauses.

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  • Thanks a lot. Very helpful response. Particularly, the way you broke down my sentence to reflect the three clauses in there :) – Iqbal Feb 23 '19 at 0:49
  • @Iqbal [off topic but to help you: Could you recommend styles guides to me [to or for]. :) – Lambie Feb 23 '19 at 14:14

If clauses are as independent as that then there is no grammatical relationship between their tenses. There may be potential semantic issues, but that would be very much dependent on the specific details. In your example it is absolutely fine. You could separate them with a full stop rather than a comma, switching but for however, and some people would say that is stylistically better. Many style guides are fine with it as you have it, with or without a comma. As long as there's either a comma or a linking word (or, often preferably, both), it's not a run-on sentence, which would be ungrammatical. Here it's not ungrammatical, as you have a conjunction and a comma.

Tense consistency in English is not something you can make clear rules for. There is no overall grammatical rule requiring consistency between different verbs in the same sentence, especially where they are in separate clauses or phrases. In the first clause of your sentence you have both present and past - you are sorry (now) that you could not (in the past) see them before leaving. In the second clause you will visit (in the future) and you hope (now) to see them then. This is normal, and nothing to worry about.

The tense should be the same when describing the same action or activity. You can run into such problems if you start in one tense but finished in another (spot the deliberate error). However, that is one action in one conditional being described by two verbs. One sentence or clause can contain individual phrases that relate to very different actions. The thing is to be aware of semantic contradictions. Tense combinations are effectively driven by meaning, not grammar.

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  • I see. Thank you so much for clarifying my confusion on the use of tenses. Can you please recommend me some style guides to refer so that I am careful in formal writing/communication. – Iqbal Feb 23 '19 at 1:12
  • I'm afraid not. As an educated native speaker, one just sort of picks this stuff up without being explicitly taught. – SamBC Feb 23 '19 at 1:16
  • Mmm... Surely, this makes a lot of sense ;) – Iqbal Feb 23 '19 at 1:21

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