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Thread: were/are

  1. #1
    Tan Elaine is offline Key Member
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    Default were/are

    Richard told me that you were/are a doctor.

    Am I right to say that both are correct to mean that you are a doctor?

    Many thanks.

  2. #2
    konungursvia's Avatar
    konungursvia is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: were/are

    Yes, but we normally prefer the rather illogical accord of tenses, so we use "were" here rather than "are", normally.

  3. #3
    Tan Elaine is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: were/are

    Thanks, Konungursvia.

    I think if I want to drive home the point that you are a doctor, I should say:

    1. Richard has told me that you are a doctor.
    2. Richard tells me that you are a doctor.

    I think both sentences leave no doubt that you are a doctor.

    If my sentences work, could you please let me know whether there is another way to say the same thing?

    Many thanks in advance.

  4. #4
    2006 is offline Banned
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    Default Re: were/are

    Quote Originally Posted by Tan Elaine View Post
    Richard told me that you were/are a doctor.

    Am I right to say that both are correct to mean that you are a doctor?

    Many thanks.
    If "you" are still a doctor, it makes no sense to use "were". If you do use "were", at least some people will think you are not a doctor any more.
    There is no reason to match the past tense "told" with another past tense, "were".

  5. #5
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    Post Re: were/are

    Quote Originally Posted by Tan Elaine View Post
    If my sentences work, could you please let me know whether there is another way to say the same thing?

    Many thanks in advance.
    You could say, I hear you're a doctor, without specifying who you've got such information from. Obviously, I hear you were a doctor, would refer to someone's former job.

  6. #6
    konungursvia's Avatar
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    Default Re: were/are

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    If "you" are still a doctor, it makes no sense to use "were". If you do use "were", at least some people will think you are not a doctor any more.
    There is no reason to match the past tense "told" with another past tense, "were".
    I agree there is no good reason, but it has long been the norm to accord the tenses, regardless.

    E.g. "I thought you were dead!" not "I thought you are dead."
    "I heard you were here!" never "I heard you are here."
    "I was told you were tall." not "I was told you are tall."

    The same applies in French and most Western European languages. So, however illogical, we must let our learners know that according the tenses will raise the fewest eyebrows.
    Last edited by konungursvia; 09-May-2009 at 13:11.

  7. #7
    2006 is offline Banned
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    Default Re: were/are

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    I agree there is no good reason, but it has long been the norm to accord the tenses, regardless.

    E.g. "I thought you were dead!" not "I thought you are dead."
    "I heard you were here!" never "I heard you are here."
    "I was told you were tall." not "I was told you are tall."

    The same applies in French and most Western European languages. So, however illogical, we must let our learners know that according the tenses will raise the fewest eyebrows.
    I see no merit at all in matching tenses when it leads to an unclear meaning.

  8. #8
    konungursvia's Avatar
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    Default Re: were/are

    I see no merit in it either, I'm just teaching Elaine what the normative usage is. I tend to dare to go beyond and bend the rules, but rules are just that -- norms which are generally followed.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: were/are

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    I see no merit in it either, I'm just teaching Elaine what the normative usage is. I tend to dare to go beyond and bend the rules, but rules are just that -- norms which are generally followed.
    I understand, but I am concerned about lower level students. It must be terriibly confusing to them when the past tense is used for something that still is. And for students, especially lower levels students, the more logical a language is the easier it is for them to understand and learn it.

  10. #10
    Tan Elaine is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: were/are

    I would prefer standard English usage or usage by native speakers whose command of English is good. Not what is commonly used in conversation and is acceptable though the usage goes against the rules of correct usage.

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