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Earlier this morning, I opened the list on my computer to check:

A.    ...if there was anyone I knew who had made the list.

B.    ...if there was anyone I know who had made the list.

C.    ...if there was anyone I know who made the list.

Are all these sentences grammatically correct?

And in all these sentence, it's the present that we're talking about here. Like, the exact present day.

And the part "if there was anyone I knew", in the first sentence is bugging me, for the people I knew earlier this morning, I still know them.

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  • @TIPS >if there was anyone I know who had made the list. Sorry, my reputation is low, so I can not add comments. The problem with the above is using the past (there was) & the present (I know) tenses in the same sentence. This is not grammatically correct in formal English. But, as I said, in normal every day usage - nobody cares about such things. Hope this helps.
    – tum_
    Jun 13, 2016 at 5:32
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 8, 2018 at 11:08
  • Hi, native speaker here. Can't guarantee this is technically correct but, in an informal setting, I would personally say "Earlier this morning, I opened the list on my computer to check if there was anyone I knew who made the list." Dec 19, 2020 at 22:55
  • Or, subjectively even better (because it's simpler): "Earlier this morning, I opened the list on my computer to check if anyone I knew made it." Dec 19, 2020 at 22:56

1 Answer 1

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Earlier this morning, I opened the list on my computer to check:

A. ...if there was anyone I knew who had made the list.

B. ...if there was anyone I know who had made the list.

C. ...if there was anyone I know who made the list.

Each of A, B, and C is grammatically correct. However, their meanings are slightly different.

A suggests that the speaker is thinking of people that s/he used to know but no longer does. Or this past form could also be used if some other event is mentioned in the context that occurred after the speaker checking the list.

B slightly emphasizes that the event of checvking thje list is in the past (even if the very recent past "earlier this morning"). The progressive form "had made") serves this function here.

C is standard with no particular nuance.

"Make the list" is a fixed phrase, perhaps an idiom, and is often used with the past tense "made" when no particualr past is being refereed to. For example:

The scholarships are out. I made the list!

I suppose one might consider that the creation of the list is in the past, but that past is not what any speaker of this phrase is referring to. When this phrase is used in the present tense, it often refers to a future event. For example:

You will have to work harder if you want to make the list.

Here the list has not yet been created, and no one knows if the listener will be on it.

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