EnglishClub
Home Learn English Teach English MyEnglishClub Home Learn English Teach English MyEnglishClub


Question regarding the use of past tense

Questions from teachers about English grammar and usage

Moderator: Susan

Question regarding the use of past tense

Unread postby jennie8 » Thu May 08, 2008 8:57 am

The sentence is, "Karl said you were my girlfriend"
I would like to know if the use of past tense here in the sentence means, "you are not my girlfriend any more" or "you were my girlfriend and are still my girlfriend"

Thank you for your help,

Jennie
jennie8
Member
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu May 08, 2008 8:39 am

Re: Question regarding the use of past tense

Unread postby Syl » Thu May 08, 2008 5:11 pm

(from "Index to Modern English" by Thomas Lee Crowell Jr.)
Sequence of tense:

1. The two sentences below mean the same thing, but notice the difference in the verb forms:

Today's paper says that it will rain tomorrow if it does not snow.
Today's paper said that it would rain tomorrow if it did not snow.

2. In general, the tense form of a dependent verb is determined by the tense of the principal verb: the dependent verb shows time in relation to the principal verb. The phenomenon is known as sequence of tense. It is found to varying extent in other languages, but it permeates English so throughly that it may be termed a distinctive characteristic of English. It appears not only in dependent clauses but also in infinitives and participles.

Notice the operation of sequence of tense in the following models:

Model 1

a. She knows that John loves her. (The time of the dependent verb loves is the same as that of the principal verb knows.)

b. She knows that John will love her. (The time of the dependent verb combination will love is later than (or subsequent to or future to) that of the principal verb knows.)

c. She knows that John loved her. (The time of the dependent verb loved is earlier than - or anterior to - that of the principal verb knows.)

Model 2

a. She knew that John loved her. (The time of the dependent verb loved is the same as that of the principal verb knew.)

b. She knew that John would love her. (The time of the dependent verb combination would love is future to that of the principal verb knew.)

c. She knew that John had loved her. (The time of the dependent verb combination had loved is earlier than that of the principal verb knew.)

Model 2 is so firmly entrenched in English that a general rule can be set up: if the principal verb is in the past, the verb in the dependent clause is also in the past.

You may see some violations of that general rule. Sometimes, if the dependent clause states a general truth, describes a habitual action, or expresses a permanent condition, the simple present tense is used in violation of the rule of sequence of tense. However, the sequential form is just as correct and is more usual, and it is recommended that all speakers use it.

- Columbus proved that the world was round.
- The visitor discovered that the subway train always stopped at 96th Street.
- The teacher asked me what my name was. (I didn't change my name, did I? ;) )


Syl's English Corner - Learn English and Have Fun
http://www.ginnegar.0catch.com
User avatar
Syl
Prolific Member
Prolific Member
 
Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Apr 07, 2008 5:06 pm
Status: Management

Re: Question regarding the use of past tense

Unread postby yeknom » Tue May 27, 2008 6:15 pm

sounds weird to me
yeknom
Member
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun May 11, 2008 5:27 am
Location: venezuela


Return to Grammar and Usage

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests