We normally use hope with present tense. If we use hope in past tense, the way signified in the sentence below, should we use "found out" or "would find out" or any thing else? Also the use of "by the time" is really confusing for me. I wonder if the sentence below is grammatically correct.

"I hoped by the time they found out about the missing car, I would miles away."


4 Answers 4


The revision is partially correct with the insertion of that and be. In any case, I would suggest using the verb discover here.


It would be correct if it was written this way:

I hoped (that) by the time they found out about the missing car, I would be miles away

But I go further and explain it to you.

First things first, when we have the verb hope used as in the case, we can omit the "that". And in that sentence it is perfectly omittable, but I would go for letting it there, for the sake of understanding.

Second, grammar says we should use would when hoping in the past, but only in the situations which the verb hope controls. For example, you hoped to be miles away, but you didn't hope they found out about the missing car. The discovery about the missing car is not controlled by the verb hope, thus it has to stay in the past tense.

Last but not least, we have that word be that, even if it looks like a typo, I think it deserves a place in this answer. The chunk is what it's called subordinate clause and it's composed by two separate sentences. The first is

I hoped (that) I would miles away.

and the second is

By the time they found out about the missing car.

See why they are subordinate? They aren't complete without each other. The second sentence is grammatically okay, even with no sense alone. The first on, hmmm... It needs a main verb. We have "hoped", okay, but it is acting more like an auxiliary verb. The verb "be" fits perfectly in the meaning and acts like the main verb the sentence needs to... Be a sentence!

And there you have it. Hope it helps!


You could say "I had hoped", and all would be fine.
Also : "I would be miles away" (common usage) or "I would have been miles away". (technically correct past tense)


Here's another way to think about it:

Transport yourself back in time, to the time when they do not yet know about the missing car.

I hope I will be miles away before they find out about the missing car.

Now, transport yourself into the future, and look back upon that incident:

I hoped I would be miles away before they found out about the missing car.

You replace the present-tense verbs with their past-tense counterparts.

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