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When you found that your clock was not working, and you don't know when it had stopped, how would you say it?

  1. It was working last night, but it didn't work this morning.
  2. It was working last night, but it wasn't working this morning.
  3. It was working last night, but it isn't working this morning.
  4. It was working last night, but it doesn't work this morning.

I would like to put "this morning" there to mean "It wasn't working when I saw it in the morning, and it has stopped until now, 11:00 a.m."

  • I edited the title: mention about a clock → mention a clock
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  • 5
    It's unnecessary to repeat the word 'work'. You could just say "It was working last night but not this morning".
    – Astralbee
    Sep 16, 2022 at 8:24
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    Presumably you mean a digital clock, since it would be obvious when an analog clock stopped. Sep 16, 2022 at 8:35
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    "mention" takes a direct object without a preposition. "What tense should I use when I mention a clock...?" Too few characters for me to edit myself.
    – phoog
    Sep 16, 2022 at 9:13
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    3 and 4 imply you are making the statement during the morning, while 1 and 2 imply you are speaking later in the day.
    – chepner
    Sep 16, 2022 at 19:12
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    Quite separately, you do not 'mention about a clock which has stopped'. You might 'mention a clock which has stopped…' You might 'speak/talk/write/post about a clock which has stopped…' Is it clear, those are very different cases? Even further, whether this was a clock 'which' or 'that' had stopped would usually be up for debate but again, that's a separate Question. Oct 1, 2022 at 22:06

3 Answers 3

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As @AstralBee has mentioned, you don't need to repeat the words:

It was working last night but not this morning.

Personally I think all 4 sentences are fine, but I might prefer (1).

Plus the tense doesn't change for all 4 of your sentences anyways.

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  • Thank you so much for your answer! So, can I also say "...but it didn't work this morning" when it is still morning?
    – Nigutumok
    Sep 16, 2022 at 9:30
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    Sure, but if it's too close to the moment it happend then just say it didn't work just now or "earlier" @Nigutumok
    – DialFrost
    Sep 16, 2022 at 9:31
  • Excuse me, but I have another question. If I say it to a clock smith holding the clock in my hands, how would it be? Still can I say all 4 sentences?
    – Nigutumok
    Sep 16, 2022 at 10:17
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    Yup you can still say all 4 @Nigutumok
    – DialFrost
    Sep 16, 2022 at 10:22
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    Depends @Nigutumok :P, when you use the past tense you can mean either it stopped working from then on (because it wouldn't make sense to call a clock smith when your clock stopped but worked again)
    – DialFrost
    Sep 16, 2022 at 10:26
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It depends on when you are speaking relative to the time when you first noticed that it wasn't working.

I'll ignore the fact that you can elide the verb from the second clause because I think you're more interested in the tenses than in how to convey this specific thought most idiomatically.

But actually, it's less about the tenses than it is about two subtly different expressions: to work and to be working. They mean the same thing here, but mixing them strikes me as a little odd.

The first one, in the present, is "it works" or "it does not work." The second is "it is working" or "it is not working" (various contractions would normally be used, e.g. "it isn't" or "it's not").

  1. It was working last night, but it didn't work this morning.

This is a bit off, but it's not ungrammatical. The problem is that both clauses are in the past, but they use the different expressions. I would say one of these instead:

It worked last night, but it didn't work this morning.

It was working last night, but it wasn't working this morning.

(That, of course, leads to the elision that would in fact be more natural.)

In all of these cases, you're talking about earlier this morning.

  1. [See above]
  1. It was working last night, but it isn't working this morning.

This is essentially the same except that it means that the clock is not working now, this morning, whereas the previous examples mean that the clock was not working earlier today, this morning.

  1. It was working last night, but it doesn't work this morning.

Again, this mixes the two expressions. "It doesn't work" isn't parallel to "it was working." Better:

It didn't work last night, but it does work this morning.

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On the level of basic grammar two of those samples rule themselves out:

'It was working last night, but it didn't work this morning' invokes clauses that are not comparable because their tenses don't match. 'It was working last night, but it doesn't work this morning' shares the same fault; the tenses don't match. Grammatically 'Working' is not to be compared to 'work…' however similar they are semantically.

In 'It was working last night, but it wasn't working this morning' the clauses seem to have been combined into one, which makes 'it wasn't working (this morning)…' redundant; tautological, ie, unnecessarily repetitive.

Separate sentences, as for instance 'It was working last night. It wasn't working this morning' would be better and 'It isn't (working) this morning' would be preferable.

'It was working last night, but it isn't working this morning' is grammatically and semantically fine, yet 'It was working last night, but it isn't this morning' would be more usual.

I see that '… it isn't this morning' appears to suffer from the lack of '… isn't working this morning…' but as so often, common usage and idiom over-ride strict grammar.

'It was working last night, but not this morning' is grammatically dubious but idiomatically, it might be heard every day.

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