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Which of the following cases is preferred?

  1. Yesterday, I noticed we needed to change the object names. Team, Do we have any volunteers to work on this change?
  2. Yesterday, I noticed we need to change the object names. Team, Do we have any volunteers to work on this change?

The good point about the first sentence is that the tense of need (past tense) matches that of the verb noticed. A native speaker has told me we should match tenses in a sentence. Here is the example they provided:

Example: I knew she was fast, but I didn’t know she was that fast!

The fact of the matter is that she IS fast, but since you were expressing what you knew (past tense) then everything that follows it is conjugated in the past as well.

On the other hand, the good point about the second sentence is that the tenses of the verbs accurately describe the situation. We still need to change the object names, so need is more accurate than needed.

I would like to get feedback from a few native speakers as to which of the following cases is more natural.

2 Answers 2

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In the provided choice I would go with the "need" form, as that is what was true as of yesterday. Only once the action has actually been completed would I switch to "needed", as in "We're a bit behind schedule because we needed to change object names all through the code base."

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  • Thank you for your response. So you think it would be more accurate to say I knew she is fast, but I didn’t know she is that fast! instead of I knew she was fast, but I didn’t know she was that fast!. Is that right?
    – H D
    Mar 23 at 21:31
  • Yes, I would use the "is" form. Mar 23 at 22:12
  • Thank you. This approach (being realistic about the times) makes things much easier!!
    – H D
    Mar 23 at 23:12
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Any tense is acceptable - it depends what you want to say

The tenses simply give information about when the need occurs in time. There was a need in the past. There is a need now. There will be a need in the future. All of those are possibilities.

Separate the two ideas

  1. When do you notice?
  2. When does the need occur?

Examples

I noticed yesterday that a need will exist in the future.

John will probably notice tomorrow that a need existed in the past.

I have just noticed today that a need for healthcare existed 10 years ago, but no-one realised it at the time.

I have just noticed today that, next week, we will need some new printer paper.

I notice that John needs some help with his luggage.

etc.

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  • Thank you for the comprehensive information! So you think it would be more accurate to say I knew she is fast, but I didn’t know she is that fast! instead of I knew she was fast, but I didn’t know she was that fast!. Is that right?
    – H D
    Mar 23 at 21:31

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