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  1. #1
    Mr. X is offline Junior Member
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    Present tense and preterite in the same line

    Hello,

    I have a sentence which is essentially in present tense but it involves preterite as well. There are three ways in which I could frame it.

    He believes that his dad will give him a present if he did something nice.

    He believes that his dad will give him a present if he does something nice.

    He believes that his dad would give him a present if he did something nice.

    My guts tells me the first is correct because 'believes' is present tense and should therefore be followed by 'will'. But my confusion is: both does and did seem to be fine here.

    Any comments?

    Mr. X

  2. #2
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Re: Present tense and preterite in the same line

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. X View Post
    Hello,

    I have a sentence which is essentially in present tense but it involves preterite as well. There are three ways in which I could frame it.

    He believes that his dad will give him a present if he did something nice.

    He believes that his dad will give him a present if he does something nice.

    He believes that his dad would give him a present if he did something nice.

    My guts tells me the first is correct because 'believes' is present tense and should therefore be followed by 'will'. But my confusion is: both does and did seem to be fine here.

    Any comments?

    Mr. X
    The second and third examples are correct, the first is incorrect. Can you see why?

  3. #3
    Mr. X is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Present tense and preterite in the same line

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    The second and third examples are correct, the first is incorrect. Can you see why?
    Sorry, I can't. I thought the third was incorrect and I've mentioned why in the OP. Regarding the first, is it because 'did' represents an action already completed and wouldn't therefore be compatible with 'will', which refers to the future? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

  4. #4
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is offline Moderator
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    Re: Present tense and preterite in the same line

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. X View Post
    Sorry, I can't. I thought the third was incorrect and I've mentioned why in the OP. Regarding the first, is it because 'did' represents an action already completed and wouldn't therefore be compatible with 'will', which refers to the future? I'd like to hear your thoughts.
    Yes, "will" is incompatible with "did". Sorry, I made a mistake about the third one, it should be "He believed..." to make it correct.

  5. #5
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    Re: Present tense and preterite in the same line

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. X View Post
    Hello,

    I have a sentence which is essentially in present tense but it involves preterite as well. There are three ways in which I could frame it.

    He believes that his dad will give him a present if he did something nice.

    He believes that his dad will give him a present if he does something nice.

    He believes that his dad would give him a present if he did something nice.

    My guts tells me the first is correct because 'believes' is present tense and should therefore be followed by 'will'. But my confusion is: both does and did seem to be fine here.

    Any comments?

    Mr. X
    You raise some wonderful examples here. I think it would be easier to consider the sentences -- to begin with -- without the opening phrase.

    Hence, you have
    His dad will give him a present if he did something nice.
    The (apparently) past tense of the second verb doesn't agree with the future tense of the first.
    His dad will give him a present if he does something nice.
    The future tense agrees nicely with "if he does." Can you see why?
    His dad would give him a present if he did something nice.
    Here the word would sets up a conditional situation, which does agree with the conditional if he did. Hence, to my mind this works, as well. Now, I believe this is the same as saying if he were to do, which I actually prefer.

    Now let's go back and put on the introductory phrase.
    In the second sentence it clearly needs to be "He believes that..."
    In the third sentence I would agree with Mr. Bhaisahab that it could be "He believed that..." But I would also venture to say that it is not incorrect to express it as you have done:
    He believes that his dad would give him a present if he did something nice.

    His process of thinking could, to my mind, be taking place either in the present or the past.

    What say you, Mr. Bhaisahab? I would be interested to see your thoughts on this. Or perhaps others have ideas on this.

    And thank you, Mr. X, for presenting these challenging sentences!

  6. #6
    bhaisahab's Avatar
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    Re: Present tense and preterite in the same line

    Quote Originally Posted by kfredson View Post
    You raise some wonderful examples here. I think it would be easier to consider the sentences -- to begin with -- without the opening phrase.

    Hence, you have
    His dad will give him a present if he did something nice.
    The (apparently) past tense of the second verb doesn't agree with the future tense of the first.
    His dad will give him a present if he does something nice.
    The future tense agrees nicely with "if he does." Can you see why?
    His dad would give him a present if he did something nice.
    Here the word would sets up a conditional situation, which does agree with the conditional if he did. Hence, to my mind this works, as well. Now, I believe this is the same as saying if he were to do, which I actually prefer.

    Now let's go back and put on the introductory phrase.
    In the second sentence it clearly needs to be "He believes that..."
    In the third sentence I would agree with Mr. Bhaisahab that it could be "He believed that..." But I would also venture to say that it is not incorrect to express it as you have done:
    He believes that his dad would give him a present if he did something nice.

    His process of thinking could, to my mind, be taking place either in the present or the past.

    What say you, Mr. Bhaisahab? I would be interested to see your thoughts on this. Or perhaps others have ideas on this.

    And thank you, Mr. X, for presenting these challenging sentences!
    Very interesting. I see exactly what you mean, but in that case I would prefer "were to do" insread of "did". Thanks for pointing that out.

  7. #7
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: Present tense and preterite in the same line

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. X View Post
    Hello,

    I have a sentence which is essentially in present tense but it involves preterite as well. There are three ways in which I could frame it.

    He believes that his dad will give him a present if he did something nice.

    He believes that his dad will give him a present if he does something nice.

    He believes that his dad would give him a present if he did something nice.

    My guts tells me the first is correct because 'believes' is present tense and should therefore be followed by 'will'. But my confusion is: both does and did seem to be fine here.

    Any comments?

    Mr. X
    You're not using the preterite tense here. You're using the subjunctive "did" which has the same form as the preterite.
    If you wrote "My father believes I did something wrong", "did" would be in the preterite (simple past) tense.

  8. #8
    Mr. X is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Present tense and preterite in the same line

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    You're not using the preterite tense here. You're using the subjunctive "did" which has the same form as the preterite.
    If you wrote "My father believes I did something wrong", "did" would be in the preterite (simple past) tense.
    Thanks, Raymott.

    My confusion is this: I know 'his dad would give him a present if he were to do something nice' is right as a stand-alone sentence. But since it is preceded by 'he believes' instead of 'he believed,' will that be a problem?

  9. #9
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Re: Present tense and preterite in the same line

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. X View Post
    Thanks, Raymott.

    My confusion is this: I know 'his dad would give him a present if he were to do something nice' is right as a stand-alone sentence. But since it is preceded by 'he believes' instead of 'he believed,' will that be a problem?
    I'm not sure which sentence you're referring to. Your sentence doesn't contain "he believes".
    Maybe you're referring to my last sentence: "My father believes I did something wrong." But I don't see the relevance to your current question.

    Here are some correct sentences:
    'His dad would give him a present if he were to do something nice.'
    'His dad would give him a present if he believed he had done something nice.'
    'His dad would give him a present if he believes he has done something nice.'
    'He believes his dad would give him a present if he were to do something nice.'
    'He believes his dad would give him a present if he did something nice.'
    'His believed his dad would give him a present if he had done something nice.'

    [Note that all of these are awkward because of the ambiguous referent of 'he'.]

    If this doesn't answer your question, can you clarify by posting a sentence that you think is OK with "he believes", but a problem with "he believed"?

  10. #10
    Mr. X is offline Junior Member
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    Re: Present tense and preterite in the same line

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I'm not sure which sentence you're referring to. Your sentence doesn't contain "he believes".
    Maybe you're referring to my last sentence: "My father believes I did something wrong." But I don't see the relevance to your current question.
    No, I am talking about my three example sentences. Of the three, the second is okay, the first is wrong, but the third confused me because it was 'believed' instead of 'believes.'

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