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    #1

    Is or was?

    I'm wondering if it is acceptable to use "is" and "was" interchangably in the sentences below.

    My landlord said it is/was normal for bugs to infest new homes.
    My teacher said my essay on the importance of communication in the workplace is/was superb.
    I heard that my friend is/was moving to America.
    I met Gordon last month, and he told me he is/was enjoying living in Spain. (Last month, Gordon was enjoying living in Spain, but I'm not sure if that's still the case.)

    I'm confused about reported speech and ongoing truths. I have done some research, but I'm still a confused.


    I hope you can help me understand!

    Thank you

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    #2

    Re: Is or was?

    My landlord said it is/was normal for bugs to infest new homes.
    This is the on-going truth. In other words, it was true then and it is true now.

    Other examples are not about the truth, but the past states or events.

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    #3

    Re: Is or was?

    Quote Originally Posted by driftwood View Post
    This is the on-going truth. In other words, it was true then and it is true now.

    Other examples are not about the truth, but the past states or events.
    Thank you, but I still don't know which word to use

  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Is or was?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dominoes View Post
    Thank you, but I still don't know which word to use
    You have probably been taught that one should back up a tense for verbs in reported speech. This has been the default for many years. There are a couple of exceptions, however. When one is discussing a universal/known truth, the present is often more appropriate. Also, in situations in which the speaker has good reason to believe that the situation has not changed since the original speech, the present is often used.

    Your landlord quote falls into the first category, so the present is appropriate. Your other three sentences are fine in the past tense.

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    #5

    Re: Is or was?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    You have probably been taught that one should back up a tense for verbs in reported speech. This has been the default for many years. There are a couple of exceptions, however. When one is discussing a universal/known truth, the present is often more appropriate. Also, in situations in which the speaker has good reason to believe that the situation has not changed since the original speech, the present is often used.

    Your landlord quote falls into the first category, so the present is appropriate. Your other three sentences are fine in the past tense.
    Thanks for that explanation. I apologise for not understanding this properly, but you said the other sentences are "fine in the past tense". Does that mean that using the present tense would be wrong? Sorry!

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Is or was?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dominoes View Post
    Thanks for that explanation. I apologise for not understanding this properly, but you said the other sentences are "fine in the past tense". Does that mean that using the present tense would be wrong? Sorry!
    If you know your teacher still thinks your essay is superb, the present is OK.
    Your friend already moved or is not moving. Past tense.
    You already expressed doubt about Gordon. Past tense.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 24-Jun-2013 at 10:57. Reason: typo correction

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