In a movie, there is an expression which I can not understand. The situation is like the following.

There are two men, A and B, driving in a car and calling a third person over a mobile's speakerphone.

A: I don't want to listen to him (the third person) anymore.

(A throws the mobile phone out though a window)

B: That was mine.

I don't understand why B says "That was mine."

This sentence has past tense. Even though A throws the phone out, does the phone still belong to B?

So it is natural that B should express his opinion by using present tense, isn't it?

  • You are inconsistent. Whose phone is it? Who throws it out the window?
    – randomhead
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 10:53
  • B owned the phone
    – bak1936
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 11:04
  • Then why do you ask "Does the phone still belong to A?"
    – randomhead
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 11:46
  • it might difference between English and mother-tongue. people from my country say usually that is mine!! they choose present tense.
    – bak1936
    Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 22:23
  • 1
    The situation, and the dialogue are virtually meaningless. I've voted to close as I can't understand what you are asking here.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


The phone no longer belongs to B (or anyone else), whether because it was destroyed when it hit the ground or simply because it is now lost and they are driving away from it.

The present tense could be used with an elision:

Hey, that's mine!

But the past tense is more natural in this situation:

Hey, that was mine!

Not full present tense, as that would sound a little stilted:

(x) Hey, that is mine!

  • Additionally I'd say the use of past tense reflects that the action that's referred to (the throw) is in the past. Saying something was yours doesn't rule out that it still is yours, but the "point of interest" is in the past, so to speak. Commented Sep 5, 2021 at 10:57
  • I think you're both right. It could mean B means the phone is no longer his, or it could mean he's referring to the incident in the past, which is very common. For instance, I intend to hand someone their phone, but I hand them mine instead. I could say, "Sorry, that was my phone. Here's yours." The phone was and still is mine, and this is totally natural English
    – gotube
    Commented Apr 22, 2022 at 1:13

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