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Can I use "had" for the future when something scheduled in the future is postponed?

A) what is your plan tomorrow?

B) I had an interview tomorrow, but they postponed it to next week. So I am free tomorrow.

Is this usage of "had" wrong?

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    Read JavaLatte's good answer carefully. You are not talking about the future with "had". You are talking about yourself-in-the-past, as you looked towards the (then) future. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jun 3 '16 at 13:40
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    What about "I would have had an interview if it weren't cancelled."? – alk Jun 3 '16 at 18:07
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    @alk I would have had an interview (tomorrow) if it hadn't been cancelled is fine. Weren't cancelled sounds a bit off. – Alan Carmack Jun 3 '16 at 18:39
  • @Joann The sentence is fine. You are talking about the future in relation to the past. – Alan Carmack Jun 3 '16 at 18:41
  • @Rompey Someone has asked a question related to what we looked at yesterday. – Alan Carmack Jun 3 '16 at 18:41
15

No, this usage is not wrong.

What it means is that, at some time in the past, you had an appointment planned for an interview tomorrow. Up until you heard that it had been postponed, you would have been able to say:

I have an interview tomorrow...

After hearing that the interview has been cancelled, you no longer have a meeting tomorrow, so you move it into the past and say

I had an interview tomorrow...

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3

Adding to other great answers, you need to understand that there is a "relative clause" or "past participle + preposition" omitted in the sentence as follows:

I had an interview (which was) scheduled for tomorrow.

As an adverb, tomorrow can modify the verb to have, however, it is impossible to do it contextually.

As others explained, it is not likely to cause confusion. However, if you don't want to cause any confusion, it is better to use "scheduled for" before "tomorrow".

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3

As the other answers say, there is nothing wrong with "I had an interview tomorrow". You could use a different idiom to convey the same idea:

I was supposed to have an interview tomorrow, but ...

The "was supposed to" idiom conveys that originally an event or occurrence was planned, but either the event was definitely cancelled or it is now unclear whether the event will happen. At the time of speaking, the originally-planned event could be in the past or present or future.

Examples:

I was supposed to drive him to the airport tomorrow, but I haven't heard from him today so I'm not sure whether I will be going.

 

I was supposed to take my final exams yesterday afternoon, but it rained all morning so school closed early and the exams were postponed.

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  • I feel like there should be another 'had': I was supposed to have had an interview tomorrow, but... – DCShannon Jun 4 '16 at 0:16
  • @DCShannon: No, that wouldn't make sense for an interview. The form isn't impossible: I was supposed to have had a good night's sleep, but I stayed at the party but having an interview isn't something that happens to you. You're a participant. – MSalters Jun 4 '16 at 0:27
  • @MSalters I don't see how being a participant or not affects things. Even so, you're not only a participant in getting a good night's sleep, you're the only participant. – DCShannon Jun 4 '16 at 1:01
  • @dcshannon: perhaps a bit stronger: you're not an active participant. – MSalters Jun 4 '16 at 22:44
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The tenses in this sentence are a bit twisted. "Had" refers to the past. But now you have a situtation where in the past, an interview was scheduled. At some later date, but still in the past, the interview was cancelled.

I suppose one could quibble and say that "I had an interview tomorrow" is bad grammar because the tenses are wrong. One could say that the correct wording would be something more like, "I had scheduled an interview for tomorrow, but now that interview has been canceled." But it's not necessary to be so awkward: we know what you mean. It it not that the interview was in the past, and thus "had", but that the scheduling of the interview was in the past.

Unless you're a time traveller of course! Maybe you went to the interview on Wednesday, then travelled back in time to Tuesday to tell someone that you "had the interview tomorrow"! I recall a great line from a science fiction movie once where a character is talking to a time traveller. He mentions where he is from, and then says, "Have you ever been there?" And the time traveller replies, "Yes, but not yet."

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  • I would argue it's good grammar, in that we often use a past tense form to refer to the future. I was going to take a test tomorrow but the test got cancelled. – Alan Carmack Jun 3 '16 at 18:50
  • @AlanCarmack I'd agree that your sentence is correct. The intent, "was going to", is in the past, even though the event itself is in the future. I don't think that's quite the same as "I had a test tomorrow", which, as I read it, puts the test in the past even though there's the juxtaposition with "tomorrow" which would of course put it in the future. – Jay Jun 6 '16 at 13:11

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