Actually I have two questions:

  1. Can I use Past Simple and Present Simple together in the sentence: 'He looked stunned when he realized that she lives here'?! I know about Sequence of tenses but I'm confused with this sentence!
  2. Which is correct 'he looked stunned' or 'he was stunned'?!
  • Either "looked stunned" or "was stunned" is equally good. Which one to use depends on other factors.
    – Peter
    Commented Jul 20, 2020 at 7:56
  • @Peter Yes either is ok. It simply depends on whether he looked stunned or whether he was stunned. It is perfectly possible to be one without being the other.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


He looked stunned when he realized that she lives here.

Yes. The sentence is fine if she still lives there. However, the past sentence is still preferred regardless of whether she still lives there or not.

He looked stunned when he realized that she lived there.

This is due to the phenomenon called 'back-shift'.

In English grammar, backshift is the changing of a present tense to a past tense following a past form of a reporting verb. Also known as sequence-of-tense rule. (Nordquist, 2018)

  • +1 for a good answer. But whether one would use present or past - she lives or she lived - is a finely nuanced condition. If the person speaking was very close, either in terms of geography or time, to the place or the event of "his realisation" - I would not entirely rule out the use of present tense - as you have recognised.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 19:50

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