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Very often I see "it turns out" used in the description of a past event. One veteran user said "it turns out" is okay when we are describing a recent event. But can't it be used when we are describing something that happened, say, a few years ago? Also, the pattern can be paraphrased with a non-dummy subject instead. So I'm wondering if, when a non-dummy subject is used in "turn out...," we can still keep the present simple tense. I'm wondering if sentence (c) can be used instead of (a) in informal speech.

a. I had a chat with him, and it turns out that he just met my father.

b. I had a chat with him, and it turned out that he just met my father.

c. I had a chat with him, and he turns out to have just met my father.

d. I had a chat with him, and he turned out to have just met my father.

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It’s not so much the recency of the scenario that matters, but the recency of those matters’ coming to light. Thus it would be perfectly idiomatic to say, “I’m reading a biography of Archimedes, and it turns out that he had red hair.” And the recency doesn’t affect whether one can use the phrasal verb turn out, but only which tense to use. So, for instance, “Back in 1969, Joe Namath predicted that he and the New York Jets would beat Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, and he turned out to be right.”

As to your sentence (c), yes, it’s okay as a replacement for sentence (a). There is a pretty subtle difference in meaning though. Sentence (a) feels like it’s more of a description of the situation and the fact of the making your father’s acquaintance, whereas sentence (c) feels to be a bit more about the him you had a chat with and a bit less about the acquaintance making. I suppose making he the grammatical subject of turn out tends to make him feel more like the semantic topic.

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  • Suppose the chat in my sentences took place many years ago and the coming to light of the man's meeting my father took place as many years ago. Then is "it turns out" (in the present tense) still okay?
    – Apollyon
    Jan 13 at 7:54
  • Paul's first paragraph explains that turns out is not appropriate if the fact was discovered a long time ago. Jan 13 at 10:01

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