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  1. #1
    yellow river is offline Newbie
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    why did she use the past tense??

    Hi

    My manager initially wanted to set a meeting on October 1 and then she changed the meeting to October 10. I don't understand why she in her memo used past tense saying "some people wanted to attend and were unavailable on that date"

    Her e-mail
    " the meeting has been changed to October 10. We had originally set this for October 1, but unfortunately some people wanted to attend and were unavailable on that date.


    thank you

  2. #2
    2006 is offline Banned
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    Re: why did she use the past tense??

    Quote Originally Posted by yellow river View Post
    Hi

    My manager initially wanted to set a meeting on October 1 and then she changed the meeting to October 10.
    I don't understand why she in her memo used past tense saying "some people wanted to attend and were unavailable on that date"

    Because the possibility of an October 1 meeting no longer exists; that possibility only existed in the past.
    So your manager cannot use present tense, as in 'some people want to attend'. It's no longer possible for them to 'want to attend', because there is no meeting on October 1 any more.

    Also, they were unavailable when the meeting was scheduled for October 1. Whether they still are unavailable for an October 1 meeting doesn't matter, because the meeting date has been changed.

    thank you
    2006

  3. #3
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Re: why did she use the past tense??

    Quote Originally Posted by 2006 View Post
    2006
    Yes, but the meeting to be held on October 10 is the same meeting that they wanted to attend on October 1 but couldn't, except that it's been postponed.

    If it is now October 5th, it's possible to say, "There are people who want to attend the meeting, but could not do so on October 1, so it's now going to be held on October 10th."

    On the other hand, I don't understand why yellow river can't see that "they wanted to attend on October 1st, but couldn't" is right.

  4. #4
    Jay Louise's Avatar
    Jay Louise is offline Junior Member
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    Re: why did she use the past tense??

    I believe that the memo writer could use either present or past tense. To write "some people want to attend and are unavailable on that date" would be appropriate because both the desire to attend the meeting (whenever it might be) and their inability to attend on 1-Oct are both still current at the time the memo is being written.

    However, she might be writing from the frame of mind of her conversation earlier in the day with those people. She is saying "I spoke with some people about this earlier and they told me that they wanted to attend and that 1-Oct wasn't a good date for the meeting".

    In my mind it would be more appropriate to use the present tense. She is currently changing the date of the meeting because people do want to attend and at this time they are unavailable on 1-Oct.
    Last edited by Jay Louise; 11-Jun-2010 at 13:06.

  5. #5
    2006 is offline Banned
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    Re: why did she use the past tense??

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Yes, but the meeting to be held on October 10 is the same meeting that they wanted to attend on October 1 but couldn't, except that it's been postponed.
    But the pertinent sentence in the e-mail specifically talks about the initial date of October 1, "wanted to attend and were unavailable on that date". The emphasis is on that date, not on the meeting.

    If it is now October 5th, it's possible to say, "There are people who want to attend the meeting, but could not do so on October 1, so it's now going to be held on October 10th."
    But this is a completely different sentence, and it emhasizes the meeting, not the date.
    My comments also apply to Jay Louise's post.
    Last edited by 2006; 11-Jun-2010 at 18:16.

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Re: why did she use the past tense??

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Louise View Post
    I believe that the memo writer could use either present or past tense. To write "some people want to attend and are unavailable on that date" would be appropriate because both the desire to attend the meeting (whenever it might be) and their inability to attend on 1-Oct are both still current at the time the memo is being written.
    I don't think that it is very important whether they are still unavailable for the 1st. The new date has been set and they are available for that, so the original date is now past and finished, so it's clearer to talk about that in the past. I think it's clearer to put the events around the original schedule into the past and move onto the first.

    Also, do we know whether they are still unavailable for the 1st? The person would probably have checked their availability for the new date rather than seeing how many were still unavailable, wouldn't she?

  7. #7
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: why did she use the past tense??

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    I don't think that it is very important whether they are still unavailable for the 1st. The new date has been set and they are available for that, so the original date is now past and finished, so it's clearer to talk about that in the past. I think it's clearer to put the events around the original schedule into the past and move onto the first.

    Also, do we know whether they are still unavailable for the 1st? The person would probably have checked their availability for the new date rather than seeing how many were still unavailable, wouldn't she?
    Indeed - people who thought they would be unavailable on the available date may have had other appointments cancelled (so that they are now free). What matters is their belief (about their availability) at the time when they learnt about the earlier decision - and that's in the past. I agree with Jay Louise that there may sometimes be a case for saying 'There are people who can't make the earlier date', but the speaker in that case is referring to his/her understanding (which may be wrong) of their present beliefs, and more often than not s/he will want to refer instead to the past beliefs of those people (which are known).

    b

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