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  1. Unregistered
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    #1

    Past tense?

    Hello

    I am wondering why the speaker used past tense in this situation:

    I telephoned someone today and that person forgot my name and then said "What was your name?"

    Why did she use past tense "was" ?

    thank you

  2. areev's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Past tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    Hello

    I am wondering why the speaker used past tense in this situation:

    I telephoned someone today and that person forgot my name and then said "What was your name?"

    Why did she use past tense "was" ?

    thank you


    you gave your name in the past,but she forgot your name.so she asks your name again.

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    #3

    Re: Past tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post

    I telephoned someone today and that person forgot my name and then said "What was your name?"
    Why did she use past tense "was"?

    The answer is related to the questionable custom of 'backshifting tense', that is using past tense, in indirect speech.

    A tells B "I am in Brazil." (direct speech)
    B says 'A said he was in Brazil.' (indirect speech)

    "What was your name?" (= 'What did you say your name was?') is related to the above.

    It makes more sense to say '(Sorry I forgot.) What is your name?' After all, your name has not changed.

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    #4

    Re: Past tense?

    I'm afraid I disagree. There is no backshifting here, since no reporting of speech is taking place: the sentence in question is a simple main clause.

    This use of the past tense tends to occur when information has been supplied but simply forgotten by the speaker. The speaker uses the verb form as a kind of polite device to acknowledge that the error is his/hers and not that of the addressee.

    If, however, the question were embedded as indirect speech, then

    What did you say your name was?

    would certainly be the correct standard form.

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    #5

    Re: Past tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
    Hello

    I am wondering why the speaker used past tense in this situation:

    I telephoned someone today and that person forgot my name and then said "What was your name?"

    Why did she use past tense "was" ?

    thank you
    I did not read the other two posters' comments yet. Here is mine:

    What was your name = What did you say your name is.

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    #6

    Re: Past tense?

    I agree with Philo2009 that it's a question of politeness as the person is asking again:
    What's your name? = The first time of asking
    What was your name? = I have already asked but am asking again.

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    #7

    Re: Past tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    I'm afraid I disagree. There is no backshifting here, since no reporting of speech is taking place: the sentence in question is a simple main clause.
    I didn't say that reporting of speech is taking place, but it seems to be the same 'logic'. And actually "What was your name?", in this context, has exactly the same meaning as "What did you say your name was?" Anyway, that's the way I see it.

    This use of the past tense tends to occur when information has been supplied but simply forgotten by the speaker. The speaker uses the verb form as a kind of polite device to acknowledge that the error is his/hers and not that of the addressee.

    How does using the 'wrong tense' show politeness?
    2006

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    #8

    Re: Past tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by corum View Post
    What was your name = What did you say your name is.
    Good luck in explaining the logic of that statement.

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    #9

    Re: Past tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    Good luck in explaining the logic of that statement.
    If you want to take the easy way out, then say "I'm sorry, what's your name again?"

    That way, it can be taken as "What IS...." or "What WAS....."

    However, as far as usual English is concerned, I would always say "What was your name?" if I was asking for a second time. I can't entirely explain why, it's just what we say!

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    #10

    Re: Past tense?

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    If you want to take the easy way out, then say "I'm sorry, what's your name again?"

    That way, it can be taken as "What IS...." or "What WAS....."

    However, as far as usual English is concerned, I would always say "What was your name?" if I was asking for a second time. I can't entirely explain why, it's just what we say!
    Yes, I fully understand that and I realize that many peoplle say that. I'm just pointing out what I feel is one of the illogical aspects of the English language and am suggesting a more logical, and also acceptable, alternative.
    Last edited by 2006; 10-Apr-2010 at 06:30.

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