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    #1

    Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was flat.

    Everyone thought that the earth was flat until it was proven that it is actually round.

    I have transformed the sentence as follows. Which is the verb that I should use? And by the way, should 'was' be used instead of 'is' in the above sentence? Thanks.

    Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was flat.
    Last edited by kohyoongliat; 28-Oct-2013 at 08:06.

  1. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was f

    Backshifting is almost never wrong, but when the situation reported is still valid at the moment of reporting, it is not obligatory. When we are speaking of universal truths, many people prefer not to backshift. I'd use is.

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was f

    Quote Originally Posted by kohyoongliat View Post
    Everyone thought that the earth was flat until it was proven that it is actually round.

    I have transformed the sentence as follows. Which is the verb that I should use? And by the way, should 'was' be used instead of 'is' in the above sentence? Thanks.

    Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was flat.
    I would also use "is". Using "was" might suggest that the world is no longer round.

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was f

    "Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was flat."
    I think there's a case for preferring 'was' in this one, because it applies to events that occurred up to and until the earth was proved to be round. That is, not only was it proven to be round at the time of proof, it was proven ipso facto that it was also round before the proof when people thought it was flat.
    The meaning becomes something like, "Before the world was proven to be round, everybody had thought that it was flat". The fact that it remained round after the proof is not so much at issue in this version.

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    #5

    Re: Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was f

    Hi Raymott,

    I agree with your explanation.

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was f

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    "Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was flat."
    I think there's a case for preferring 'was' in this one, because it applies to events that occurred up to and until the earth was proved to be round. That is, not only was it proven to be round at the time of proof, it was proven ipso facto that it was also round before the proof when people thought it was flat.
    The meaning becomes something like, "Before the world was proven to be round, everybody had thought that it was flat". The fact that it remained round after the proof is not so much at issue in this version.
    I understand your point, but I disagree with it. The fact is that the proof established that world is round -- not was round.

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    #7

    Re: Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was f

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    I understand your point, but I disagree with it. The fact is that the proof established that world is round -- not was round.
    The proof established that the earth was round at the time of proof. But unless we look at the actual proof and agree on what constitutes it, we can't tell whether the proof proves that the world would remain round. That may have been a separate inference. The first proof that the earth (to be more specific) was round did not prove that it would be round in 2013. In any case, the "proof" that the earth was round was turned over by a subsequent proof that is wasn't exactly round (or spherical) but an oblate spheroid. But we can ignore all of this subsequent material, because this sentence only applies to the time up and until the earth was proven round.

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    #8

    Re: Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was f

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    The first proof that the earth (to be more specific) was round did not prove that it would be round in 2013.
    True, but I doubt if there were many people around at the time who thought, "OK, so they've proved it's round today, but it could be square next month'. Your argument might appeal to logicians, but I think that most of us are a little less sophisticated in our thinking when we speak or write.

    If I say, "I am English", people are not going to report that as '5jj said that he was English' on the grounds that I might not be English next week. They will use either 'is' because I will still be English at the time of reporting, or 'was' because backshifting is almost always correct.
    Last edited by 5jj; 28-Oct-2013 at 10:02. Reason: typo

  7. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was f

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    The proof established that the earth was round at the time of proof. But unless we look at the actual proof and agree on what constitutes it, we can't tell whether the proof proves that the world would remain round. That may have been a separate inference. The first proof that the earth (to be more specific) was round did not prove that it would be round in 2013. In any case, the "proof" that the earth was round was turned over by a subsequent proof that is wasn't exactly round (or spherical) but an oblate spheroid. But we can ignore all of this subsequent material, because this sentence only applies to the time up and until the earth was proven round.
    An oblate spheroid is for all intents and purposes round. It is certainly not a pancake.

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    #10

    Re: Before it was proven that the world is /was round, everyone thought that it was f

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    True, but I doubt if there were many people around at the time who thought, "OK, so they've proved it's round today, but it could be square next month'. Your argument might appeal to logiciand, but I think that most of us are a little less sophisticated in our thinking when we speak or write.

    If I say, "I am English", people are not going to report that as '5jj said that he was English' on the grounds that I might not be English next week. They will use either 'is' because I will still be English at the time of reporting, or 'was' because backshifting is almost always correct.
    True, my argument was deliberate sophistry. My hope was that nobody (eg. Mike) would feel it worth responding to, given that we've already decided that some of us would say 'is' and others would use 'was'. It was an experiment in trying to be the last person to post on a thread. I probably won't try it again.

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