Is this sentence correct in terms of sequence of tenses?

  • While he is working I decided to make supper for him.

As I understand it, we can use the past tense when speaking about the current time in terms of immediate action. So this means that "Right now I decided to make supper for him while he is working".

Do both sentences need to be in the past only? What if we are speaking about the present?

I just imagine a situation where a young lady is making supper for her husband when her friend comes up to her and asks, "What are you doing?" and she answers, "I decided to make supper for my husband while he is busy working".

1 Answer 1


The tense combination makes a lot more sense when your sentence is reworded slightly:

Since he is working, I decided to make supper for him.

This makes it clear that the fact that he is working is the reason behind your decision. In this case there is no problem with the reason being in the present tense (he is still working) and the caused action being in the past tense (your decision was in the [recent] past).

* I can see how this might be confusing to a learner, since[!] since can also be used as an indicator of time! But in this context since will be interpreted in its other sense[!] as an indicator of causation. [!] No pun intended - I'm so sorry English is sometimes so ridiculous!

When you say while instead of since, it sounds more like you are specifying the time period during which you made the decision rather than the reason you made the decision. And in that case the tenses do clash, like you said: you specified a time period in the present but a decision in the past.


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