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  1. #1
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    Default Can we mix tenses in a sentence?

    We have had several enquiries recently about mixing tenses. Some learners appear to be under the impression that only one tense can be used for all the verbs in one sentence. This is just not so. There is no restriction on what tenses we can use and mix, if they are appropriate for the context:


    I have heard that Emma left Manchester this morning, and has already arrived in London, where she will be/she will be staying for the next three weeks while she is finishing her dissertation.

    She (had) hoped that she would be able to complete it before she left England next month but it is proving more difficult than she (had) expected, and she needs to be close to the British Museum if she is going to have any chance of finishing this month.
    Last edited by 5jj; 11-Aug-2011 at 18:04. Reason: typo

  2. #2
    CaseyA is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Can we mix tenses in a sentence?

    I am not against using multiple tenses in a single sentence. I am just confused about how an "event" could be "referenced" by verbs of different tenses in the same sentence.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Can we mix tenses in a sentence?

    Luke was late again this morning, as he often is.
    He spoke, as he often does, with a mock-Irish accent.

  4. #4
    CaseyA is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Can we mix tenses in a sentence?

    Students who are/have been of high academic caliber have always been admitted to this school.
    Should the simple tense or the pseudo past tense be used for the first "be"?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can we mix tenses in a sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by CaseyA View Post
    Should the simple tense or the pseudo past tense be used for the first "be"?
    As Rover asked in another thread, pseudo past tense, what makes you think we have a pseudo-past tense here? We have present (1) and present perfect (2) forms:

    Students who are (1) of high academic caliber have always been (2) admitted to this school.
    Students who have been (2) of high academic caliber have always been (2) admitted to this school.

  6. #6
    CaseyA is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Can we mix tenses in a sentence?

    So, both present and present perfect tenses could be used for the example in post #4 achieve the same meaning?

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Can we mix tenses in a sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    We have had several enquiries recently about mixing tenses. Some learners appear to be under the impression that only one tense can be used for all the verbs in one sentence. This is just no so. There is no restriction on what tenses we can use and mix, if they are appropriate for the context
    This one crops up so frequently that it must be taught in some places. I agree- there is no such rule.

  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Can we mix tenses in a sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by CaseyA View Post
    I am not against using multiple tenses in a single sentence. I am just confused about how an "event" could be "referenced" by verbs of different tenses in the same sentence.
    Current opinion about a past event? Two references, one event.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can we mix tenses in a sentence?

    Quote Originally Posted by CaseyA View Post
    I am just confused about how an "event" could be "referenced" by verbs of different tenses in the same sentence.
    I went to a party last night. While I was there I thought it was great, today I realised that it was actually pretty awful and tomorrow I will probably decide that it was the worst party I have ever been to.

    One party. Three references - yesterday, today and tomorrow. Three different tenses.

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