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    #1

    Question 'Was' vs 'is'

    Hello,

    The following paragraphs are from a news article about President Obama's current trip to India. President Obama arrived this afternoon in India and the news has appeared after his arrival.

    After a brief stop at his hotel, Obama was to pay his respects at a memorial to victims of the 2008 terror attacks here and visit a home where Mohandas Gandhi once lived before turning to the focus of his first day in India: U.S. jobs.

    Obama was set to speak to American and Indian business leaders and was expected to announce trade and export deals worth billions to the U.S. In the wake of the Democrats' devastating midterm losses, attributed in part to the poor state of the U.S. economy, the White House is intent on highlighting concrete benefits to U.S. consumers from Obama's foray overseas.

    My question is - why does it say 'Obama was set to speak ...'? Can the news article use 'is' instead of 'was' to mean the same thing?

    If 'was' is correct, then later in the paragraph, it says 'the White House is intent on highlighting ...'. Should that also not be 'was'?

    Thank you.

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    #2

    Re: 'Was' vs 'is'

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympian View Post
    Hello,

    The following paragraphs are from a news article about President Obama's current trip to India. President Obama arrived this afternoon in India and the news has appeared after his arrival.
    After a brief stop at his hotel, Obama was to pay his respects at a memorial to victims of the 2008 terror attacks here and visit a home where Mohandas Gandhi once lived before turning to the focus of his first day in India: U.S. jobs.

    Obama was set to speak to American and Indian business leaders and was expected to announce trade and export deals worth billions to the U.S. In the wake of the Democrats' devastating midterm losses, attributed in part to the poor state of the U.S. economy, the White House is intent on highlighting concrete benefits to U.S. consumers from Obama's foray overseas.

    My question is - why does it say 'Obama was set to speak ...'? Can the news article use 'is' instead of 'was' to mean the same thing?
    was appears strange to me. It seems to suggest that this was the plan, but something happened to prevent it. With the timing of the article as you have noted it, I would have expected is.

    If 'was' is correct, then later in the paragraph, it says 'the White House is intent on highlighting ...'. Should that also not be 'was'?
    If we
    change the other examples to the present tense, then this can stay as it is.
    In the part of your introductory paragraph that I have underlined, the news has appeared after his arrival, either of the following would be more natural to me, a speaker of BrE:

    the news has appeared after his arrival.
    the news has appeared after since his arrival.

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    #3

    Re: 'Was' vs 'is'

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympian View Post
    Hello,

    The following paragraphs are from a news article about President Obama's current trip to India. President Obama arrived this afternoon in India and the news has appeared after his arrival.
    After a brief stop at his hotel, Obama was to pay his respects at a memorial to victims of the 2008 terror attacks here and visit a home where Mohandas Gandhi once lived before turning to the focus of his first day in India: U.S. jobs.

    Obama was set to speak to American and Indian business leaders and was expected to announce trade and export deals worth billions to the U.S. In the wake of the Democrats' devastating midterm losses, attributed in part to the poor state of the U.S. economy, the White House is intent on highlighting concrete benefits to U.S. consumers from Obama's foray overseas.
    My question is - why does it say 'Obama was set to speak ...'? Can the news article use 'is' instead of 'was' to mean the same thing?

    If 'was' is correct, then later in the paragraph, it says 'the White House is intent on highlighting ...'. Should that also not be 'was'?

    Thank you.

    ********** NOT A TEACHER **********


    Olympian,

    Thank you for such a fascinating and helpful question. I do not

    know enough grammar to explain why, but I find that paragraph

    very charming and, I think, correct English.

    The closest that I can put my finger on it is to think that the

    writer was thinking along these lines:

    "Back in Washington, D. C., before he left for the visit to our

    country, plans were made for him to pay his respects at a memorial

    to the victims. If, however, the president does not have time to do

    so, do not blame this newspaper. We are just reporting what was

    scheduled far in advance. Now that he is actually in India, plans

    may be changed without notice, so we dare not say that he

    is [definitely] set/scheduled to actually do anything, for we do

    not want to get your hopes up only to have them dashed."

    Regarding "the White House is intent ...", that quite rightly deserves

    the present tense because that is an ongoing, continuous matter.

    I hope that others will join this thread, for I would really like to know the

    grammatical justifications for the use of was.


    ********** NOT A TEACHER **********

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    #4

    Re: 'Was' vs 'is'

    Thanks for your responses fivejedjon and TheParser.

    @TheParser, OK, I understand your explanation and it makes sense. I am just wondering if this is an AmE way of expressing because fivejedjon was also expecting 'is'.

    @fivejedjon, thank you for writing what sounds more natural in English (the news appeared after his arrival / the news has appeared since his arrival). May I ask if what I wrote is grammatically incorrect? I would like to learn the natural way of expressing, of course. :)

    Thank you

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    #5

    Re: 'Was' vs 'is'

    Quote Originally Posted by Olympian View Post

    @fivejedjon, thank you for writing what sounds more natural in English (the news appeared after his arrival / the news has appeared since his arrival). May I ask if what I wrote is grammatically incorrect? I would like to learn the natural way of expressing, of course. :)
    Sometimes this is a question of getting into the speaker's mind and trying to guess their thoughts at the instant of speaking. In an example such as yours, grammatically incorrect is an expression I would not use, though others might. In cases such as this, I prefer to hover near the fence* and content myself with saying, "It sounds strange," or "It doesn't sound natural to me."

    * to sit on the fence - to avoid making a decision either way.

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