37 votes

Why is this sentence wrong "He wasn't a stranger because I have met him before"?

The verb tenses do not agree. "He was not" requires "I had met". Or, you could use "He is not" with "I have met". Both tenses need to be in agreement. However, if speaking this to a native English ...
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  • 1,296
10 votes
Accepted

past simple or present in this case: "It would be nice to see you before I leave (left)."

The OP believes that It would be nice to see you before I left expresses a wish and not a real situation, and this is why the past tense is better in the subordinate clause. It is certainly true that ...
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  • 2,885
9 votes

Backshifting in reported speech - "I wanted to let you know that he HAS/HAD sent you the letter"

If the situation reported is still valid at the time of reporting, backshifting is optional. See Swan (2005) Practical English Usage, pages 275-6, for several examples. John said that he would give ...
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  • 5,537
8 votes

The teacher told us that ice {floats/floated} on water

Many native speakers, when reporting indirectly what someone has said, will cast the verb in the past without really thinking about it, as second-nature: She told us ice floated on water. That is ...
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8 votes
Accepted

She told me that she HAS / HAD a gun

Both are perfectly correct. The meanings are not exactly the same, and you would use one or the other in different situations. She told me she has a gun. Use this form if the situation is ongoing ...
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  • 12.1k
7 votes

Indirect speech: is "has been" acceptable in “…the matter has been taken up with Saudi authorities”?

Yes, has been is grammatically correct, even in indirect speech in the past tense. Indeed, the tense (has been vs. had been) indicates an important distinction! Has been implies that what the speaker ...
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  • 27.4k
7 votes

Changing the verb for indirect quote/reported speech expressing habitual actions

In reported speech, the tense of the verbs in the reported speech is normally backshifted. I am ready He said he was ready There are, however, exceptions. If the original statement is a general ...
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  • 56.5k
6 votes

Why is this sentence wrong "He wasn't a stranger because I have met him before"?

Actually, I tend to think of the issue with this sentence as a logical one, rather than grammatical (although of course most grammatical rules are meant to be logical). In fact, there is no ...
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  • 161
6 votes
Accepted

Confusion about "Backshift" of Verbs in Indirect Speech (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Your concern seems to be this: "Why doesn't the author backshift the verbs in reports of Jem's simple past statements to the past perfect?" I think the best answer is simply that we don't always do ...
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6 votes

Changing the verb for indirect quote/reported speech expressing habitual actions

I agree that options 2 and 3 are correct if they still pray every day and that only option 3 is correct if they no longer pray every day. But the question as given is select the one which best ...
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5 votes

"A law decreased what schools had been permitted" vs. "are permitted"

As @JohnLawler says, they are both correct. But they do have slightly different connotations: A law passed in 2006 decreased the amount of chlorine that schools had been permitted to add to ...
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  • 1,919
5 votes

Backshifting in reported speech - "I wanted to let you know that he HAS/HAD sent you the letter"

It's much better to think about reported speech as the reporting of information, not words. The information that someone told you must make sense to the person you're talking to now. In the situation ...
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5 votes

Should I be using 'is' or 'was' in reported speech?

With "reported speech" the important thing is to explain the information, not the words, to your listener. The information need to be true and make sense to your listener now. In the ...
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5 votes
Accepted

mixed tenses/tenses agreement

It's worth remembering that morphologically, English only has two tenses (present, and "not-present"). By morphological I mean that verbs themselves are only modified for tense by adding -ed to make "...
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5 votes
Accepted

confusion over which tense: Present Simple or?

Actually I sent you a message to ask if you are alright when I heard the earthquake news ... If you wanted to know if your friend is safe and sound now, you can ask: How are you?; Is everything OK?; ...
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  • 22.6k
5 votes
Accepted

past tense of "should"

Should (referring to the past) versus should have + past participle "Should have" + past participle is a perfect construction, referring to a completed action. It tends to imply "......
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  • 22.5k
4 votes

Why is it grammatically correct to use present tense in this sentence?

"After discussing plans for seaside vacation, Victoria realized that she likes the ocean more than Doug did." "After discussing plans for seaside vacation, Victoria realized that she ...
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  • 4,920
4 votes

Does placing a statement in quotes, invalidate the need to backshift?

I saw that ‘two men are walking towards me’. That is incorrect. It's wrong for more than one reason You would not say: John said to Kate that “I am hungry”. So we should remove the word 'that'. I ...
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4 votes

Indirect speech: is "has been" acceptable in “…the matter has been taken up with Saudi authorities”?

With "reported speech" the important thing is to explain the information, not the words, to your listener. The information need to be true and make sense to your listener now. It doesn't matter what ...
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4 votes

Does this sentence make sense? "I got married to her for seven years."

"To get" means to become, to enter into a particular existential state. "Get" refers to the action as it happens, not to an ongoing state or condition. My shoe got wet when I stepped into the puddle. ...
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4 votes

How to backshift epistemic 'would'

I looked up Quirk et al.'s Comprehensive Grammar, and it says (Unit 14.34): If a modal auxiliary in the direct speech is already in the past tense form, then the same form remains in the ...
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  • 36.2k
3 votes

Verb tense "had left" versus "left"

The past perfect tense usage "had left" is used to order events in the past. The abuse of the girl and the act of everyone leaving the school are two separate past events. The past perfect usage ...
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3 votes

How to use 'could' in following sentences?

This is my understanding of what your example sentences mean: I haven't been able to find my keys for two years. (which means I don't have them now, or that I have just found them) (Present ...
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  • 36.2k
3 votes
Accepted

Why is it grammatically correct to use present tense in this sentence?

Both sentences could be correct in different contexts. In the first sentence the comparison is between what Victoria presently feels and what Doug felt in the past. In the second sentence the ...
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3 votes

Past tense of "Seems like everything I've been doing recently is to follow people around."

No, but I think you may well hear it said like that. Let's switch up the order of the sentence: Following people around seemed like everything I'd been doing recently. In this order, we must use ...
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  • 7,546
3 votes

Should I use "would be" or "would have been" in the following case?

"Would be". Even though the extract as a whole is in the past tense, you are specifically referring to what "you" told him, and when you spoke to him, you would have been speaking in the present ...
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  • 1,081
3 votes

Backshifting 'could' and 'would' in a work of fiction

(1) I could have broken his grip Here "have broken ..." is in the present perfect tense, which denotes a present state due to a past action. By itself it would denote a past breaking of "his grip" ...
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  • 1,253
3 votes

The teacher told us that ice {floats/floated} on water

'Ice floating on water' is not something from the past alone. It is applicable today, Ice will float on water tomorrow too, as it did yesterday and as it did millions of years ago too. So we cannot ...
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  • 8,160
3 votes

confusion over which tense: Present Simple or?

You are talking about the past, no matter the earthquake happened recently. So You use "were" instead of "are". Moreover,the use of the noun "news" means that you are referring to the information or ...
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  • 26.8k
3 votes

Sequence of tenses for facts irrelevant of the moment of speech

There is no grammatical requirement, when reporting what was said in the past, to use the present tense if the assertion is true in the present. The professor said Pluto took more than 200 Earth-...
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