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I work in a strict environment that has a past tense rule for report writing, as the things have already taken place. My question is if you can you use a present tense verb in a past tense sentence and still have that sentence be in past tense?

EX: " The man walked down the road and passed another man who was working on his car."

Does this sentence still classify as "past tense" even though the verb "working" is used and in present tense?

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  • "Working" does not belong to any tense - it is a participle. It happens to be the present participle, but that has nothing to do with the present tense. It is used to create a continuous form of both present, past and future i.e he is working, he was working, he will be working - the present continuous, the imperfect (historic continuous), and the future continuous - respectively.
    – WS2
    May 22, 2022 at 20:36

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Your assumption is wrong. Only finite verbs have tense, not nonfinite verbs. The bold verbs here have tense:

  • Singing songs at night was a lot of fun.
  • I asked them to sing me a song.
  • I made the dog leave us alone.

The bold-italic verbs here have no tense:

  • Singing songs at night was a lot of fun.
  • I asked them to sing me a song.
  • I made the dog leave us alone.

Only finite verbs have tense, number, and person. Gerunds and infinitives have no tense, number, or person. That’s why they are non-finite.

Sentences do not have tense. Only finite verbs do, and you can more than one of those in a sentence.

  • I am looking for the person who left me a note.

There you have a perfectly normal sentence with two different finite verbs, one in each of the two English tenses, present tense and past tense.

Since the main verb is in the present tense, I can understand why you would call it a present-tense sentence. But I would be careful. This you cannot classify if you go that route:

  • His friends were and are a great help to him.

There you have two verbs in both tenses each sharing the same subject.

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  • The form He was working - to one who was taught English grammar as though it were Latin, is the imperfect tense. In English it employs a participle, though in a Romance language like French it is a tense in its own right Il travaillait. But it conveys a sense of the past - indeed I have heard it described as the "past continuous".
    – WS2
    May 22, 2022 at 20:41

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