I have been reading The Bridge Across Forever. I read a sentence which is a little bit odd in my view, but I think some experts can help me understand it:

We have sold nearly everything he owns to make the down payment!

But I think it should have been:

We have sold nearly everything he owned to make the down payment!

The property she is talking about is property that was sold.

And “he” had that property so it should have been “he owned”.

Your feedback on this would be appreciated.

  • 1
    But how can you sell something you owned? You can only sell what you own. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Oct 2 '14 at 19:40
  • As Arrowfar's answer suggests, both forms are fine. People say it both ways. – snailcar Oct 2 '14 at 20:39

Yes, your version: "We have sold nearly everything he owned to make the down payment!" seems good. But I'd say that the first version with "owns" is not wrong either because we are saying the word "nearly" which means "not everything". So the first version is fine too in this case.

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First, it's fairly acceptable in everyday speech to just throw Present Simple in when you don't care much about the actual timing - and the sentence seems a little emotional, so it's okay to twist the language a bit for literary effect.

Also, if we were to get technical - if you've sold "nearly everything you own", that means there was a number of things, some of which you still own, and some of which you've sold.

If you've sold "nearly everything you owned", that implies all the things you're talking about are gone, and most of them were sold (the rest might have been lost, broken, etc.)

As I said - that's a little pedantic interpretation, though.

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