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  1. #1

    Do I use 'is' or 'was' in this context?

    Yesterday a friend told me Obama ( ) the president of the United States.

    Do I use 'is' or 'was' in the ()?

    What confuses me is that although the fact (Obama is the president) is present, it was yesterday when the friend told me the fact.

    Can you help?

    Thanks.

  2. anupumh's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Do I use 'is' or 'was' in this context?

    Quote Originally Posted by BonaVista View Post
    Yesterday a friend told me Obama ( ) the president of the United States.

    Do I use 'is' or 'was' in the ()?

    What confuses me is that although the fact (Obama is the president) is present, it was yesterday when the friend told me the fact.

    Can you help?

    Thanks.
    You will use "is" though the statement was uttered in past. The reason is that Obama is still the president, thus it is a fact which still holds true in the present. For factual statements you will always use simple present (usage of is).

    Even for habits or things which we do daily, you use simple present.

    Ex.

    Obama is the president of USA (fact which still holds true)
    Jurasic Park is a good movie (it is an old movie and was released many years ago, still we use simple present tense, because we still find it a good movie)
    Sun rises in the east (universal facts)
    I wake up at 7 in the morning (habits)

    ENGLISH PAGE - Simple Present

    SIMPLE PRESENT TENSE

  3. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Do I use 'is' or 'was' in this context?

    No, you should use "was" because it is reported speech, and the convention has always been in accord with our speech tendencies, rather than strict logic: I said you were coming.


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    #4

    Re: Do I use 'is' or 'was' in this context?

    Quote Originally Posted by BonaVista View Post
    Yesterday a friend told me Obama ( ) the president of the United States.

    Do I use 'is' or 'was' in the ()?

    What confuses me is that although the fact (Obama is the president) is present, it was yesterday when the friend told me the fact.

    Can you help?

    Thanks.
    Both are correct. You can use "was" because it's reported speech, meaning, of course, that you are saying something that someone said. And you can use "is" because it's true that Obama is president now. I think English first language speakers might opt for "is" more often when this sort of choice is possible. However, this is not a conscious choice, just to be clear. English first language speakers don't give something like this consideration; they just speak, unaware of such questions. This sort of thing is only a consideration for editors, teachers, and critics.

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