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The mix in use of Past and Present tense confuses me.

An excerpt from a complaint to an online shopping platform:

… Upon receiving my Bluetooth mouse, I discovered that the product was a counterfeit.

I sent evidences of the counterfeit vs real product to you, but you refused to acknowledge that it was a fake product.

So, this is a current situation. I still have the devious mouse, and it is still a fake.

Would this use of past tense be confusing, for example, the circumstance that it may not be a fake now, but it was deemed so?

Do I need to clarify that it is still a fake?

Is it correct to say 'Upon receiving my Bluetooth mouse, I discovered that the product is a counterfeit.'

Perhaps for clarity, is it always recommended to bring all parties to the present by relating to the present?

Please enlighten me, thank you!

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    When the discovering/noticing/finding etc. is in the past, it's usual to use the past tense even when the fact that was discovered is still true. "I noticed that Bill was much taller than Jim." Jun 3, 2023 at 8:35

2 Answers 2

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The usage of 'was' is correct as it indicates the incident has happened before, and the usage of 'was' does not change your observation - that is the fake product is still fake.

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In this context, "was" is correct and the more natural choice, though "is" is also correct.

By default, when talking about noticing or discovering something that happened in the past, we use the past tense. As the product cannot possibly have changed to become genuine in the meantime, it's clearly understood that it's still counterfeit.

The only time it's necessary to use present there is when the thing you discovered in the past could reasonably have changed since then, and you want to make it clear that it's still true now. For instance:

I noticed this morning in the mirror that my left eye is red.

This means my eye is still red. With "was", it would be unclear if the eye is still red.

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  • Good to understand that the mix of usage is acceptable! So, if I were to say: Upon receiving my Bluetooth mouse, I discovered that the product is a counterfeit. Then, the second sentence should be: I sent evidences of the counterfeit vs real product to you, but you refused to acknowledge that it is a fake product. Both state of the mouse would then have to agree with each other, is this correct?
    – Elle Yong
    Jun 4, 2023 at 8:58
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    No, it's much more natural to use "was" in your first sentence because you discovered it in the past. There's no need for the verb tenses to agree with each other
    – gotube
    Jun 4, 2023 at 16:29

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