when you brought my breakfast before I start walking in the morning, I felt happy

Does brought mean that the action of bringing breakfast is in the past it is over now (past simple), but that the other person still walks (present simple)and would it be possible to write I feel happy,I don't think so because the happyness was because the person brought breakfast to the other not because the other walks

  • The verb tenses don't agree and, in this case, it's a problem. They should either be brought, started, and felt; or bring, start, and feel. Apr 12, 2019 at 13:05
  • I like that you made it a point to bring me food before I start working in the morning. Could you tell me why in this case it is not a problem
    – Yves Lefol
    Apr 12, 2019 at 13:10
  • That version sounds strange. In that one, I would change start to started. Apr 12, 2019 at 13:19
  • But in that one should it better to write liked instead of like
    – Yves Lefol
    Apr 12, 2019 at 13:31
  • It's saying that you currently like something that happened in the past—which is fine. I like how the movie ended. You may also have liked it at the time, and you can certainly use the past tense too, but if you currently like it, and that's what you're trying to say, then the present tense is fine, if not essential. (Liking it isn't something that stopped or only used to be the case.) Apr 12, 2019 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


Setting aside for now the other problems that Jason Bassford has raised in the comments - I'll return to them shortly - this question is specifically about the use of the past simple (also known as the preterite) in a when clause. This is different from its use for the principal verb of a sentence. It is to do with how we use tenses to locate points in time, and is somewhat sensitive to the nature of the main clause of the sentence.

When I watch TV, I feel happy.

This is, both in the main clause and the when clause, the simple present. It is making a general statement. It is locating the two in the same point in time. When the TV watching is happening, the speaker is feeling happy. The implication is that there's a causal relationship - watching TV leads to feeling happy.

When I watched TV, I felt happy.

This is the same thing, but with the preterite. However, it could mean two different things. It either places the exact statement in the past, to refer to one or more specific points in time when the speaker was watching TV and feeling happy (with implied causation), or to refer to a broader time in the past when they watched TV in general (not all the time) and were happy in general (not necessarily all the time). It's a subtle difference, and really has to be determined from context if it's not properly explained.

When I have watched TV, I feel happy.

The main clause is making a general statement and it is qualified with the when clause. It is saying that, generally speaking, watching TV leaves them feeling happy for a while afterwards.

When I have watched TV, I have felt happy.

A similar statement, but without generalising it to now or the near future. It is simply saying that, in the past, there were occasions where the speaker watched TV and felt happy. It might have been during watching, or it might have lasted after watching.

When I have watched TV, I felt happy.

A more unusual combination. I struggle to think of a semantically valid situation for this, but I hesitate to write it off.

When I had watched TV, I felt happy.

This is talking entirely about the past. It seems most natural to me to use it when discussing a specific instance - narrating particular events. However, it could also be used for general statements, as in have/have above, but it makes it clear that happiness exists after watching TV, not just during.

When I had watched TV, I have felt happy.
When I had watched TV, I feel happy.

I'm pretty sure these are just always wrong. Don't use them.

So, let's look at your example:

when you brought my breakfast before I start walking in the morning, I felt happy

Preterite and preterite. Either some specific instance(s) in the past are referred to, or it's referring to a time period in the past when it was generally true that the person being spoken to brought the speaker breakfast, and that they were generally happy (with an implied causative relationship).

when you bring my breakfast before I start walking in the morning, I feel happy

Simple present and simple present. It's a general statement that happiness occurs alongside the bringing of breakfast, with implied causation.

when you have brought my breakfast before I start walking in the morning, I feel happy

A general statement that the speaker feels happy after having their breakfast brought to them.

And so on, and so forth. Hopefully that's helpful to you.

Now, the one problem that's left is in your example, you have a present simple in the middle of it all that jars if the other verbs are preterite. It doesn't necessarily have a problem with other combinations - I expect it does with some, but even two lots of present perfect, one on each side, is fine with the present simple. If you are using the two lots of preterite, you should probably make the other verb preterite, too.


As written, your example sentence is incorrect. The tenses of "brought" (past), "start" (present), and "felt" (past) do not work together. Try this:

When you brought my breakfast before I started walking in the morning, I felt happy.

You can mix tenses in your sentence, but you must be aware of the specific effect that will have. The tense of each action should follow the next in order1 (past-present-future, not past-present-past).

You brought me my breakfast and now I can walk, which will make me feel happy.

In other words, the verb tenses must support the logical order of events.

1A complex sentence can have tenses mixed in any order, but using such a sentence without a specific purpose would be considered bad writing by most teachers of English. E.G, "I checked that yesterday and it wasn't ready, so I'm glad you're going to check it tomorrow because I need to work on the report now." and "I ran the marathon yesterday so my legs feel terrible today but I didn't know they would yesterday or I wouldn't have run the marathon." Both sentences are awkward and can be written in much better ways.

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