Carla: I thought you ... a healthy guy!

A: were

B: are

I encountered this question on an online quiz. I choose A, but the answer key is B. I'm wondering why A is incorrect?

  • 3
    This native speaker would have picked answer A also.
    – J.R.
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 2:33
  • 1
    Can you provide a link to this online quiz? Reported thought generally backshifts, so were would be the most correct answer here.
    – choster
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 4:13
  • 1
    Also, verb generally tenses typically agree with each other: (1) thought you were and (2) think you are. Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 5:13
  • @choster It's the Wall street English site in Chinese. I'm afraid that if you don't know Chinese, you might not be able to get into the quiz.
    – dan
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 6:35
  • 1
    Either could be correct. As a native speaker, I would choose "A" most of the time. But you could create a situation where the context suggests the present tense "are". This is one danger of online quizzes --- they may not be written by native speakers, and they may not provide enough context to establish which answer is 100% correct. The quiz writer may just say, "pick the best answer". It depends on the situation: which situation the quiz writer thinks is most common may not be the same as what you think is the most common. Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 10:19

1 Answer 1


Either could be correct.

"Were" is most often correct.

In most cases, as user @Jason Bassford said in the comments, you will make the tenses match:

A. I thought you were a healthy guy.

X. I think you are a healthy guy.

In the context of an online quiz: as a native speaker, I would select "(A)" but there could be exceptions.

"Are" can also be correct.

You could create a situation where "thought" was in the past tense and being a healthy guy needs to be in the present tense to show it is a continuous action.

Imagine Carla is a doctor. She is meeting with a patient Bob in the afternoon. Earlier that day, Carla met with the other doctors on her team to discuss Bob's case.

Dr. Carla says, "All the doctors met this morning to discuss your case."

Bob says, "What did they think? Am I cured?"

Dr. Carla says,

"Dr. White thought your test results are inconclusive.

"Dr. Black thought you are almost cured.

"Dr. Brown thought you are making good progress.

"I thought you are a healthy guy."

In each of these sentences, either "are" or "were" should be acceptable ---- Dr. Carla would use are if she wants to emphasize that Bob's condition is an ongoing matter (it hasn't changed from the morning until now), or "were" if she wants to emphasize what the test results were showing at that time.

English is complicated, and there are often exceptions.

  • @whiskyechief i think this type of questions should not be asked in the competitive exams they are still following prescriptive grammar Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 16:57

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