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I'm mainly struggling with the tense of the verb that comes after the word "you" (I'm not really sure what the grammatical answer is). For example, I'm not really sure if it's:

"I was wondering if you had this item on sale" or "I was wondering if you have this item on sale"

Or

"I was wondering if you were on a break" or "I was wondering if you a re on a break"

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  • For both the examples above I would use the present tense. I.e. have and are. I can't think of any examples where you would use the past tense, but I'm not 100%.
    – Gamora
    Jun 3, 2019 at 14:51
  • They are all right. Bear in mind, "I was wondering" means: prior to this moment when I am speaking to you or at some past time.
    – Lambie
    Jun 3, 2019 at 15:44

3 Answers 3

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"I was wondering if you were on a break"

This asks if the person had been taking a break in the past

"I was wondering if you are on a break"

This asks if the person is currently taking a break (which means they're on break in the present)

In your first scenarios about the grocery store I can see both being used in common day-day language expressing that they want to know if an item is on sale, but the proper form would be to use the second form, since asking if "you have this item on sale" implies that you are asking about the present

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While strictly speaking the "If you were" / "If you had" forms ask about whether the sale or the break occurred in the past, and the "If you are" / "If you have" should be used in the present, in practice you will hear both forms used very commonly without regard to this distinction, including by native speakers. Still, it does no harm to be correct here, and use "are/have". But do not be surprised to hear the "past" form, and do not think it means the speaker is asking about the past.

This is particularly true in informal speech, which both examples clearly are.

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I think your confusion comes from the past tense in “was wondering”. I was wondering... means right before I asked this question which hopefully you will clarify and put an end to my doubt. It is also acceptable to say “I am wondering if...”

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