What is the correct tense that must be used with while, when main clause is simple past?

1.Shoes mended while you wait or

2.Shoes mended while you waited. or

3.Shoes mended while you were waiting.

(How to decide which tense should be used with time clauses?)

  • the first one is idiomatic and quite common
    – user6951
    Nov 13, 2014 at 7:29
  • The first one is the sign outside the shoe repairer's shop. "While you wait" is often over-used, in instances where nothing else could really be possible, e.g., "Hair cut while you wait" Nov 13, 2014 at 8:56

2 Answers 2


The tense in 'shoes mended' is not simple past. It is the present, passive, "Shoes are mended" with 'are' omitted. Your first sentence is therefore correct.

  • Is 'shoes was mended while you wait' correct?
    – mark M
    Nov 13, 2014 at 8:41
  • @markM. No; shoes requires the plural form of the verb and the tense needs to be present in both verbs.
    – tunny
    Nov 13, 2014 at 8:51
  • 1
    No. If you are describing a specific event, "John's shoes were mended" [plural] but that would then alter the rest of the sentence to "while he waited" - pushing the entire sentence to past tense Nov 13, 2014 at 8:52

"Shoes mended while you wait" is not really a complete sentence. The intent is "We will mend shoes while you wait" or perhaps "Shoes are mended while you wait". But as others have noted, it's a common phrase used in advertising to mean that a service will be performed quickly enough that you can reasonably just stay at the shop and wait for it to be done rather than go home and come back at some time in the future.

Now that I think about it, if you wanted to push it, the literal words don't really promise anything. If the cobbler will take 3 weeks to fix my shoes, I COULD sit in front of his shop and WAIT for him to finish, bring a blanket and sleep there, etc. Or if I go home, I am still "waiting" for him to finish the job even if I do other things while I wait. But of course what they mean is that the job will be done within a reasonable waiting time, maybe half an hour or an hour.

Oh, and I should add, there's an implied passive here: the shoes WILL BE mended. Or an implied subject, "THE ELVES WILL mend your shoes". The shoes aren't mending anything.

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