1

Is it a right thought that we don't answer questions using another tense because it's maybe not only grammatically incorrect but also it's not very polite to do that, isn't it? For example, someone ask you "How is your job going?" and you can't answer "I enjoy it a lot." because that question is about now, not in general.

How is your job going? – I am enjoying it a lot. (Don't answer using Present Simple, do you?)

or

Do you enjoy your job? – Yes, I enjoy it a lot. (Don't answer using Present Continuous, do you?)

3
  • Why do you think it’s not polite?
    – StephenS
    Nov 14, 2020 at 1:36
  • 1
    The commonest reply to "How is your job going?" might be "It's going OK" or "it's going very well, thanks." But it's perfectly alright to say, "I'm enjoying it a lot." No-one will say, "I didn't ask if you were enjoying it!" Nov 14, 2020 at 1:59
  • @OldBrixtonian OP’s question is about tense, not verb choice.
    – StephenS
    Nov 14, 2020 at 5:08

2 Answers 2

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If this is a rule, it isn't one I've ever heard of! It sounds like a perfectly polite and normal exchange to me, for one person to ask "How is your job going?" and the other to reply, "I'm enjoying it a lot." You may be right that the person answering isn't technically answering the exact question being asked, but people do this all the time anyway, because they are assuming intent and context behind the question and answering according to that, instead of focusing on the particular phrasing of the question itself.

4

It is perfectly normal to answer a question in a different tense, if your response needs it:

Have you seen Sarah?

I saw her five minutes ago

(Answering present perfect with past)

Why are you peeling the carrots?

I don't like the skins.

(Answering present continuous with simple present)

How will you buy your flight tickets to London?

I booked my flight weeks ago.

(Answering future with past)

All normal and not impolite. The tense in the answer may often be the same as in the question, but this is not a grammar rule, nor an etiquette rule.

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  • 1
    Yes, it would be a very restrictive rule, because as in some of your examples, sometimes the person asking is missing context that requires the change in tense. The person in your last example is unaware that the other person has already purchased tickets when they ask the question. The change in tense in the response is all part of providing that missing context. If we couldn't do this, imagine how difficult some conversations would be!
    – MarielS
    Nov 14, 2020 at 17:18
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    "How will you buy your flight tickets to London?" "I will buy them through United Airlines." "When will you buy them? You don't want to miss your chance to get a good deal." "I will buy them three weeks ago." It is only at this point the first person realizes their follow up question was entirely unnecessary and pointless XD Not to mention, being forced to answer using a future tense when referring to a past event as the second person does here would mess with all kinds of grammar conventions!
    – MarielS
    Nov 14, 2020 at 17:20

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