I was reading news online in the morning. I read a headline which did not make any sense to me. Because it had a grammar issue as per my opinion. But I think, as the reporter has written the headline so he must have something in his mind and headline may have been grammatically perfect.

The headline was

Rahul was aiming to be a billionaire by the time he was 30

My concern is, the boy who was mentioned by the reporter. He was 26, when he thought that he would be a billionaire when he would turn 30 and now he is 27. So why the reporter has used was? As per my opinion the headline should have been Rahul was aiming to be a billionaire by the time he would turn 30.

  • Why didn't you provide a link? And why did you feel the need to change the name from Arjan to Rahul? Have a look at this meta post, and be sure to include a link next time. (Also, that's a caption, not a headline.) – J.R. Jun 28 '14 at 12:06
  • Thanks for your comment. I am so sorry as I did not mention the link. I was thinking that maybe it was not needed. But I will make sure I do it next time. Thanks for feedback as well. I appreciate your point. – user62015 Jun 28 '14 at 15:25

If he was not yet a billionaire, I would tend to agree with you. The caption would be improved had it read:

Rahul is aiming to be a billionaire by the time he is 30

However, there at least two reasons we might put this in the past tense:

  1. Billionaire status has been reached. Goal achieved. This whole business about setting a goal and striving to attain it is now in the past.

  2. That goal is no longer Rahul's goal. Maybe he's decided to become a monk instead. Or maybe he realizes that goal is not quite realistic, and he has tempered it.

In either case, the past tense would perfectly natural:

Rahul was aiming to be a billionaire by the time he was 30...

... but now that he's a billionaire, he's come to realize that money can't buy happiness.
... but now he's decided to pursue a calling much nobler than acquiring wealth.
... but now he's setting his sights on age 32.1

1the real reason for the past tense in this case.

  • Thanks for your answer. But the boy has not achieved the target yet. I have read the complete news. So, as per the news he would get the target when he would turn 32 or so. So I think the caption was wrong, right? – user62015 Jun 28 '14 at 15:31
  • The goal has been changed. That's why his former goal is referred to in the past tense. – J.R. Jun 28 '14 at 16:42
  • I agree. But, maybe I am not making sense as he was never 30. So "was" is still not making sense to me. – user62015 Jun 28 '14 at 16:56
  • Forget age for a minute. I have a goal to answer 1000 questions on ELL before July 1st. Oh, wait! I'm more than 300 questions away, and July 1st is right around the corner! I guess that's not realistic. Time to set a new goal. My goal was to answer 1000 questions by July 1st. Now my goal is to answer 800 questions by December 31st. As soon as my goal changes, the old goal gets referred to in the past tense. As the article says, "Last year, when the economy was better, I was aiming to be in the billionaire club by 30 but that's going to push to 32 now." – J.R. Jun 28 '14 at 19:11

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