I have always struggled with past/present tense, especially when indicating something I found out that would still apply.

Example 1:

*This is what I found in the system.


This was what I found in the system.*

When I am explaining my findings from a report, is it more appropriate to use past/present tense because the conditions and data did not change.

Example 2:

Here are some highlights from the report:

  1. Material 1234 does not have any inventory information.

In example 2, would "did not" be more appropriate?

Example 3:

I asked my manager, and it turns out that we do not need to attend the meeting.

I asked my manager, and it turned out we do not need to attend the meeting.

I asked my manager, and it turned out that we did not need to attend the meeting.

  • You missed the "present + past" permutation it turns out we did not need to attend the meeting. They're all perfectly valid. It's mainly a stylistic choice whether to "backshift" turned out to match the "primary" verb asked, but the choice between did and do is almost entirely governed by whether the meeting itself (and hence the possibility of needing to attend it) is in the past at time of speaking. – FumbleFingers May 17 '20 at 17:30
  • In the first example, are you handing a document to someone with details (this is what I found), or are you sitting around having a drink and talking about a time when you found something years ago (this was what I found)? – Jason Bassford May 17 '20 at 17:40
  • Thank you for everyone's response!! I think I now understand the concept, and it really depends on the context in which the sentence is used. – Student May 31 '20 at 16:50

In example 1, the choice of "this is" or "this was" has less to do with when you found it, and more to do with when you're showing it or talking about it.

Either is fine, but probably you want to say "this is" if you're introducing this fact: "This is what I found: 4 new data points". You'd probably use the past tense if the information is no longer fresh perhaps: "This was what I found, but I soon learnt I was wrong".

In example 2, similarly I think the choice depends on whether (you think) the conclusion is still valid. It would be reasonable to say "Material 1234 did not have any inventory information at the time we checked it", if you want to avoid implying that that is still the case. Most commonly you'll be using the present tense.

  • 1
    Thank you for your response!! I am always concerned that I could be wrong whenever I use past and present tense in the same sentence but seems like it can be valid depending on the circumstances. – Student May 31 '20 at 16:48

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