He believed, moreover, that children are innately good.

I've seen this sentence in an English test book. Shouldn't we use "were" instead of "are" in this sentence?

He believed, moreover, that children were innately good.

If "are" is correct here, that means we can also say:

He believed that I am a good person.

I would use "was" instead of "am" here. But the first sentence confuses me. If a sentence starts with past tense, shouldn't it continue with past?

  • Could you add some detail why you are thinking of using "were"?
    – user3169
    Mar 8, 2016 at 23:12
  • I think we've had a number of questions before about whether a past action that refers to a non-time-specific action or state of being requires the past tense or the present tense. This seems to be something that English is just ambiguous about, as far as I can tell. It would be great if some ELL member could find a real, documented answer.
    – stangdon
    Mar 8, 2016 at 23:57

2 Answers 2


He believed moreover, that [children are innately good].

The entire phrase, [children are innately good] forms a single clause that should be able to stand on its own as a complete thought - in their state of being children, "goodness" is an inherent quality. In other words:

He believed moreover, something: namely, that [children are innately good].

In order for [children were innately good] to make sense as a complete thought, we must assume that children were innately good (but are no longer) or that children were (but are no longer - i.e. there are no more children).

Realistically, most readers would understand either construction. But are is correct.


He believed, moreover, that children are innately good.

If you believe that children are no longer innately good; they used to be so in the past, you should use "were".

However, if you think that it's still true that they are innately good, you can use either "are" or "were". Personally, I would prefer to use " are".

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