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I'm a bit confused about something: when using the present perfect/past perfect, am I to use "was" or "is" in the main clause?

That day was the most romantic thing that had ever happened to me.

That day was the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me.

That day is the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me.

Are all three of the above sentences grammatically correct? And, what's the difference in their meaning? And, to be clear, I'm not asking for proofreading, I'm just trying to make concepts clear. :)

  • You cannot refer a day as a "thing". Can I make possible edits ? – Varun Nair Dec 8 '15 at 6:52
  • Yeah,sure........................ – lekon chekon Dec 8 '15 at 7:04
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    @VarunKN - Why do you say you can't refer to a day as a thing? It's not the most elegant phrasing, but there are very few "cannots" in English. – stangdon Dec 8 '15 at 20:23
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First and foremost, all three of those sentences are correct. The differences are very, very miniscule between the meaning. Someone might come along and point out some tiny connotative difference, but none come to mind right now for me - in any case that I can imagine using one of those, I can exchange it with any of the other two options and the meaning stays the same.

I'll comment here that I think this would be a better sentence to express what you're trying to saying:

That day was the most romantic day of my life.

OR

That _______ (event) was the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me.

The way you currently have it, you're saying that the "day" is a "romantic thing" that happened to you. And days aren't things, and they don't happen to you. For that reason, I think one of the two options above is better.

As for the verbs that you can use, all three examples are grammatically correct and have extremely similar meanings, so it's up to you!

EDIT: I did manage to come up with one tiny difference between the three!

In the case of the first sentence,

That day was the most romantic thing that had ever happened to me.

You COULD potentially follow up with

Until today's candelit dinner! Today was so romantic - certainly the most romantic thing that has ever happened to be.

Because you have "had" there (in the past tense), we can clarify that things are different now if we want. However, on it's own (without the second quote), in that use, I don't think that "had ever happened to me" implies on its own that the event was surpassed.

The other two sentences couldn't be switched in here, as they use "has," which is in the present, and so makes it clear that the one romantic event still takes the cake.

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That day was the most romantic thing that had ever happened to me. As I grew up I found it was just a crush!

It is like a memory you tell to others, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is the most romantic thing of your life until present.

That day was the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me.

It means it was the most romantic thing of your life until present. It is still like telling a memory from the past. And one can expect you to continue!

That day is the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me.

The meaning is like the previous one, but you focus on the present and it is more like a factual sentence!

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The main difference is between the first versus the second two. The first says that there was nothing prior to that day that was more romantic. The other two say that nothing in your life was more romantic. So with the first, it's possible that something between then and now was more romantic. The difference between the second and third is smaller. The second puts more focus on the day as a past event, while the third is putting more focus on the present: on your list of most romantic times, it's at the top.

As for calling a day a "thing", I think that's acceptable, if there were romantic elements throughout the day.

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