Could you say which sentence is correct and explain your point of view? Maybe both sentences are used?

He is sleeping because he was tired.


He is sleeping because he is tired.

5 Answers 5


Grammatically both are correct.

Which expresses your meaning depends on your point of view: Is a sleeper tired or not. That is a matter of opinion. And you can't ask them to find out, because they are asleep! You don't know if they are tired or not, so it is not a very natural thing to say.

In terms of "naturalness", I don't think either is very likely. The context may be in answer to "Where is Joe?" or "What is Joe doing"

He said he was tired / He looked tired. So he went to bed.

Or perhaps

He's sleeping; he must have been really tired.


He is sleeping because he was tired.

This actually makes more sense to me between the two because he went to sleep (in the past) because he was tired (in the past).

He is sleeping because he is tired.

We don't know if he's still tired. If we wake him up right now, he may be fully rested. But one could argue that if he wasn't tired, he wouldn't still be sleeping. Which is why I think this may be more of a biological and logical question than a language question. Is somebody who is sleeping still tired? I'm sure many midnight hours have been burned pondering this mystery.

And if you can't pick, rephrase it. We can assume he's sleeping from exhaustion so perhaps give the reader a reason why he's tired and not why he's sleeping.

  • Today was a hard day for him. He is sleeping because he was tired.
    – Sergei
    Nov 8, 2020 at 17:20
  • Is that correct tense?
    – Sergei
    Nov 8, 2020 at 17:21
  • 1
    @Sergey The tense is correct. Here are some alternatives: "Today really tired him out and so he is sleeping." "He is sleeping because today was a hard day." "He was tired from today's work and so he is sleeping". "Today was tiring and so he is sleeping." There are so many ways to write this.
    – user124641
    Nov 8, 2020 at 17:29

Both are grammatical; the sense of the second is unclear.

Is a person tired while they are asleep? Is that a meaningful question? Is “being tired” a psychological sensation or a physiological condition?

The first makes sense, but it would more likely be phrased with a common tense:

He fell asleep because he was tired.


To offer a differing opinion on the second phrase:

I would definitely say that someone WAS sleeping because they ARE tired. My brain would automatically craft a sentence like this when referring to someone who is chronically tired or lethargic.


In general, it better not to state the obvious. For example

He is sleeping because he is tired.

He is drinking tea because he is thirsty.

He is bathing because he is dirty.

don't make very interesting sentences, and could be, for example

He fell asleep because the housework tired him.

He is drinking tea after being in the sun made him thirsty.

He is bathing because he just came home from a ball game.

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