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These following sentences are from some websites about "Have You Ever" questions. Is it correct to use the present simple or present continuous in the sentences? Should I change them into past simple or past continuous?

Have you ever left the first date without telling the other person you're leaving?

Should it be changed to "you were"?

Have you ever told someone they look nice when you really didn't mean it?

Should it be changed to "looked"?

Have you ever lied to your parents about where you're going?

Should it be changed to "you were"?

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    You were leaving - they looked (or possibly were looking) nice - you were going. The first and third are really a reference to the future rather than the continuous tense. Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 14:24
  • So your answer to my question is yes, I should change them?
    – Stephen
    Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 14:38
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    That's how I would write those sentences. Commented Jul 24, 2022 at 14:41

1 Answer 1

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Assuming that the time reference remains unchanged (i.e., it is still the time at which these sentences are spoken), the verb should be in the past tense, because it describes action before the present time:

Have you ever left a1 first date without telling the other person you were leaving?
Have you ever told someone they looked nice when you really didn't mean it?
Have you ever lied to your parents about where you were going?

Note that in the second sentence, the next verb ("did . . . mean") is also in the past tense. Thus, the tenses match.

Some people may consider the reference to have shifted to the time of the second person's speaking. They may therefore prefer to keep the verbs in the present tense. (In that case, I would also change the last verb in the second sentence: "when you really don't mean it".)

Both versions (with past tense and present tense) are quite common.

1I changed the article here because the date doesn't seem to be a specific one.

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  • Have you ever told someone they look nice when you really don't mean it? Why is this common? The prseent perfect talks about a period from a person' childhood up o now, while the present simple talks about now. It seems the the former contains some time the latter doesn't. Meanwhile, the latter contains some time the former doesn't. It is unlogical.
    – Stephen
    Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 0:19
  • If you want to know why that is common, then you should ask a new question. English speakers do use flattery, white lies, etc., though you may also want to look at other SEs, such as Interpersonal Skills. Commented Jul 25, 2022 at 11:51

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