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Why are the two phrases "what they think" and "when they heard" not written in the past tense in the text below? I know that 'leaders' can still think in the same way in the present as they did in the past, but when they heard the word "college", this seems to be a past event.

When the leaders were asked what they think about when they hear college, they all responded with excitement.

Context: Only three had seen a university or college prior to the program but were too young to remember any significance of their visit. Anthony stated, " I went to a college with a church group, but I don't know which school. I don't remember. " When the leaders were asked what they think about when they hear college, they all responded with excitement and expressed a desire to go to college. Simeon said, " I want to go to college. I want to see a lot while I'm here at the university ", and Anthony said, " I think college is da bomb. "

Source: Physical Educator Fall 2006, Vol. 63 Issue 3, p134-142, 9p

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    When you say 'Why is it?', do you mean that you are quoting the sentence? If so, where from? Both tenses are possible. It's the same as 'He said that his name was John' (presumably it still is). Sep 5, 2021 at 13:54
  • IMO it should be "When the leaders were asked what they thought."
    – randomhead
    Sep 5, 2021 at 13:56

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I think it could be either depending on additional context of how the reader imagines events. For example:

As a narrative, you would use past tense. I think that's more common when we're reading.

If it relates what was asked at that time (as if someone asked you right now, "what do you think about when you read this"), then present is ok.

Then again, maybe the "Physical Educator" isn't the best grammar source, in that they wrote "hear college" rather than "hear the word college". I didn't get it at first until I read the explanation.

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