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  1. #1
    xupeng66 is offline Junior Member
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    choice of verb tense in a clause

    Hello!

    Verb tense is something I have always been struggling with. Could you please tell me what tense I should use in the clause of the following sentence?

    Deb pointed out yesterday that we need (needed?) to make sure our measurements won't (wouldn't?) interfere with others' in next year's fieldwork.

    Should I use simple past for "need" and "will" because the main clause is in simple past?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: choice of verb tense in a clause

    Quote Originally Posted by xupeng66 View Post
    Hello!

    Verb tense is something I have always struggled with. (Or: something I have been struggling with.) Could you please tell me what tense I should use in the clause of the following sentence?

    Deb pointed out yesterday that we need (needed?) to make sure our measurements won't (wouldn't?) interfere with others' in next year's fieldwork.

    Should I use simple past for "need" and "will" because the main clause is in simple past?

    Thanks!
    If you have not yet made the measurements, say "need" and "won't," because you still need to make them.

    But if you have already made them, say "needed" and "wouldn't," because you needed to make them yesterday but now they're done.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  3. #3
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Re: choice of verb tense in a clause

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    The present tense is possible/correct, but backshifting to the past tense is also possible/correct.
    And that is true even if the measurements haven't been made yet (in response to Charlie's answer).

  4. #4
    xupeng66 is offline Junior Member
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    Re: choice of verb tense in a clause

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    And that is true even if the measurements haven't been made yet (in response to Charlie's answer).
    Thanks for answering my post. One document online says if the independent clause is in simple past, then the subordinate clause must be in a past tense unless it states some general truth. But I guess present and future tenses can also be used if the subordinate clause states something that is supposed to happen in the future like the case in my original question. Am I right?

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