I found this example in Grammarly

When I was out there this morning cleaning off the door, I remembered that just last week I had noticed what a muddy white color it is, and I had thought about other colors for it. I even went inside then and looked at paint colors online.

I know that, in this case, we are talking about past of the past, but it would be weird to write had been a second time for a subordinate clause.

Why did the author choose is for a non-present action?

  • 1
    I'd prefer "had been", but this looks more like an artificial paragraph to illustrate past perfect, than a natural narrative.
    – James K
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 8:17

1 Answer 1


The author presumably chooses "is", because the door is still the same muddy colour at the time of speaking.

But you are right, you could backshift this "is" to the past perfect.

The paragraph seems designed to be one that is muddled with respect to tense. It would be possible to restructure it to avoid the awkward past perfect reported thoughts.

  • 1
    I think making the "is" a "was" would be more natural than "had been" or other forms like "had become," but I agree with your interpretation that the door was still the same muddy white color at the time of writing. (And could be even now!) The whole passage is a bit awkward, and I don't see any reason it couldn't be simple past tense throughout, especially considering the last sentence "I even went ... looked" is simple past tense, but occurs sequentially along with the events of "had noticed" and "had thought" all in the prior past before "this morning ... I remembered."
    – Nate
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 9:55
  • That is well said. I think the awkwardness is deliberate, and this isn't natural English, but written for the purpose of including many tenses.
    – James K
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 10:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .