I was watching a comedy show; the comedian was talking about going on a trip with his dad and he said "I was sharing a hotel room with my dad. I knew he snored.".

Is it right to use simple past tense "snored" when talking about someone else's habit in a story?

  • 2
    Obviously it's "right", or the comedian wouldn't have said it. Most stand-up comics are very particular about exactly what they say and how they say it. Unlike sports commentators who "shoot from the lip" and often misspeak, stand-up comics usually spend a lot of time fine-honing their shtick. So learn English from comics and JK Rowling, not sports commentators and Dickens! Mar 12 at 12:50
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    But is there some specific reason you think there's something "odd" about the cited usage? It looks perfectly ordinary to me as a native speaker. Mar 12 at 12:52
  • Yes, I have a native teacher that said it should be present simple instead of past simple like: "I knew he snores". This might've happened because of my miscommunication. I'll ask they again.
    – s.s
    Mar 12 at 13:32
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    There have been many threads on this forum about backshifting of tenses - when you report speech (or in this case, knowledge) in the past about something that is still true. Basically, you can use either past or present tense. Mar 12 at 15:05

1 Answer 1


There are several possibilities here. What seems most likely to me is that the story is about events in the past and so the verbs "knew" and "scored" are both in the past because that is when the actions occurred. Or this might be a case of backshifted speech as a comment suggests. In either case the usage is fine and no change is needed.

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