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If I am writing an email to inform someone of a particular item I noticed in the file, should I use past or present tense?

  1. I noticed there are/were two past due orders in the attached report.

  2. I notice there are two past due orders in the attached report.

I am confused because the condition still exist. The past due orders are still in the report.

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  • Sentence 2 suggests the report is in front of you as you write, and sentence 1 with "I noticed there are..." means virtually the same. However sentence 1 with "I noticed there were..." slightly suggests that those orders have now been settled or the report amended. By the way, I've never heard of "past due orders". Aren't they "overdue orders"? Jan 16, 2021 at 21:02
  • @Old Brixtonian I have definitely heard "past due" used in contexts similar to this one. And In my view, Sentence 2 could refer to the writer's current knowledge, whether the report is in front of the writer or not. Sentence 1 could be used if the issue had already been fixed, but also if it is still outstanding. Jan 16, 2021 at 21:57
  • @David Siegel: Among the first few examples Google finds of "past due orders" (without a hyphen), one describes a "Past due Orders Report" (their capitals) which "prints a log of orders that are supposed to be returned and are not and the return date is past by due by the Past Due Days." I think "past due orders" may be jargon. Jan 17, 2021 at 15:28
  • @OldBrixtonian Yes, "past due orders" is more of a business jargon, especially in supply chain which is the field I work in. We use late orders, overdue order, and past due orders interchangeably.
    – Student
    Jan 17, 2021 at 18:51

1 Answer 1

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Both sentences are true and valid. Sentence 1 refers to the event of your discovering the items in the file. Sentence 2 refers to your knowledge that they are currently in the file. Both are true. In this case the difference in meaning is subtle, and not very significant. Native speakers probably use 1 more than 2 in such a situation, at least in my experience, but that is a matter of style. There is a slight different in emphasis, but in both cases the point of there being past due orders is made. Use which ever feels best to you, or fits the rest of your message best.

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  • Thank you! Is it correct to use "I noticed" followed by "are," which is a present tense verb?
    – Student
    Jan 17, 2021 at 18:53
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    @Student I think it is correct to use "are" because although the noticing occurred in the (recent) past, the orders are still there in the present. The use of "were" might suggest that the orders were there but no longer are. Jan 17, 2021 at 20:05

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