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You should not work in the field while the sun was hot.

I came across this sentence and it felt a little odd, The original sentence is not from a native speaker. I think it should be either:

You should not have worked in the field while the sun was hot.

or:

You should not work in the field while the sun is hot.

Maybe dropping "while" would be a better idea, but my question is- can a sentence have two different tenses like this?

Note: Some edits have been done after the answer was given.

  • 2
    We don't say the sun is being hot. while the sun is hot. – Lambie Mar 25 at 18:40
  • I was unsure about "sun is being hot", but decided to copy the sentence verbatim. should I edit this? – eefar Mar 25 at 18:48
  • Fred2 gave you a good answer. Here is an article which may help you with tenses: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequence_of_tenses. – Don B. Mar 25 at 18:58
  • As a note, you seem to have edited the phrasing of your sentences after an answer was given. It makes the answer confusing because it talks about problems that don't currently exist in your question. (The given answer didn't make sense to me until I reviewed the edit history of your question.) You should really include a comment that indicates how the sentences were originally phrased—otherwise, the answer is somewhat invalidated. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Mar 26 at 23:16
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Multiple tenses are not a problem, and are often required in complex sentences handling events at different times.

However, the tenses and voices in the original sentence and your suggested alternatives are not correct.

There are two equally good ways to fix the original sentence - depending on whether you really want to place events in the past or not.

You should not work in the field while the sun is hot.

(Present conditional "should [not] work" plus present active 'is').

You should not have worked in the field while the sun was hot.

(Present perfect conditional "should [not] have worked" plus simple past 'was').

I've created these two alternatives as your attempts to fix the sentence seem to be aiming for the present tense and perfect tense respectively.

The main problem with the original sentence and your suggestions if the use of the present progressive, which is not needed or appropriate in the context.

The present continuous conveys the meaning of something happening right now and continues to happen. You can technically say "the sun is being hot" or "the sun was being hot", and it is grammatically fine and logically true. All I can say is that it is not idiomatic ... it sounds really weird.

  • I've edited out the unidiomatic "sun is being hot". Could you please elaborate The main problem with the original sentence and your suggestions if the use of the passive voice, which is not needed or appropriate in the context. – eefar Mar 25 at 19:10
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    I don't think there is or was any use of passive voice in the original suggestions. "The sun is being hot" is present progressive, not passive. – Juhasz Mar 25 at 19:12
  • @Juhasz. You're right, my bad. – fred2 Mar 25 at 19:15
  • Apart from the unidiomatic expression, was i correct to think that this particular sentence would be incoherent with two different tenses? – eefar Mar 25 at 19:32
  • 2
    Whether it's okay to have different tenses depends on the meaning, and the particular combination of tenses. In this case, the combination in the initial example doesn't work, because the actual semantic time of the two elements don't agree, and them not agreeing doesn't make sense - because the while shows they should be in the same semantic time. – SamBC Mar 25 at 20:55

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