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Can you please tell me which of the following sentences is correct?

  1. A law passed in 2006 decreased the amount of chlorine that schools had been permitted to add to drinking water.
  2. A law passed in 2006 decreased the amount of chlorine that schools are permitted to add to drinking water.
  3. A law passed in 2006 decreased the amount of chlorine that schools were permitted to add to drinking water.
  4. A law passed in 2006 decreased the amount of chlorine that schools have been permitted to add to drinking water.

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    That both of them are correct. Perfect constructions are often optional, and this is one of the optional situations. They had been permitted to add some, and that amount has been decreased. They are permitted to add some, and that amount has been decreased. Both true, both grammatical. – John Lawler Jan 19 '15 at 16:25
  • I'd say: "A law passed in 2006 decreased the amount of chlorine that schools were permitted to add to drinking water." – Peter Shor Jan 19 '15 at 18:26
  • Option #3 ("were") is what would often be seen, and is probably what could be considered to be the default choice. – F.E. Jan 21 '15 at 18:53
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As @JohnLawler says, they are both correct. But they do have slightly different connotations:

A law passed in 2006 decreased the amount of chlorine that schools had been permitted to add to drinking water.

Before and during 2006, it was permissible for schools to add some amount of chlorine to their drinking water. In 2006, this amount was decreased. Perhaps schools are still allowed to add this reduced amount of chlorine, or perhaps not. The sentence is ambiguous on that point.

A law passed in 2006 decreased the amount of chlorine that schools are permitted to add to drinking water.

Schools are currently allowed to add chlorine to drinking water, but the amount permitted was decreased in 2006.

  • @JohnLawler It seems to me there are three choices; present, perfect, or pluperfect, each of which carries a slightly different possible interpretation. – WS2 Jan 19 '15 at 16:57
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    There are far more than three choices; there's still the progressive, the causative, and the inchoative to consider, for instance. "Perfect" isn't a tense, it's a construction; and it's only one of many, not one of the Big Six. "Pluperfect" makes sense in Latin, but not in English. – John Lawler Jan 19 '15 at 19:15

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