didn't know... was/is

Discussion in 'English Only' started by lycen, Mar 29, 2012.

  1. lycen Senior Member

    English and Chinese

    These sentences show past tense goes with past tense:

    I thought he was a mean person.
    I had no idea he was a kind person.

    What about this:

    I didn't know he was/is a kind person.

    I have seen and heard often 'didn't know he is". Is it correct to use the present tense with the past in this context?

  2. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    I think it's wrong, and would not advise it.

    (Logically, I had no idea he is a kind person means "in the past I didn't know what he is like now". Well of course not! That would be clairvoyance!)
  3. Beryl from Northallerton Moderator

    British English
    As a rule past follows past, as you've said. It can give rise to some weirdness - 'I didn't know he was called Dave' - but he's still called Dave, so what's wrong with 'I didn't know he's called Dave'? - it's not clairvoyance, it just sounds wrong. There are usually work-arounds if you're bothered by these things.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014
  4. justmat Member

    Suppose my friend is to act in a play which is to be enacted on a later date, and I knew about it only now,is it correct to say :-

    1. I didn't know you are in the play.
    2. I didn't know you were in the play.
    3. I didn't know you will be in the play.

    If I say #2, does it mean the play is in the past.
    Are #1 and #3., grammatically correct?
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2014
  5. WildWest

    WildWest Senior Member

    First things first, I'm not a native speaker as you may see.

    Your third sentence seems wrong to me, and I'd just use "would" instead. Apart from this, if I had to pick between the first and the second, I would personally go with the second.

    Lastly, even if it has apparently nothing to do with your question but is still connected to the main subject, I want to add something. I heard someone said "I told you I'm done" and got confused just like you. Then, I noticed it most likely has to be as follows:

    I told you "I'm done"

    There's a big difference. It probably arised from the fact that it was a quote from a TV series and I saw this in a website, which I realised many quotes shared there were wrong, after a long while. There was another quote in the same place that belongs to the same TV series:

    "Look, I told you I'm not in the mood"

    I suppose it has to be as follows:

    I told you "I'm not in the mood"

    Despite everything, the way these people say these was kind of different. It was like they wanted to mean what I considered wrong. I mean, it was the stress that was different.

    P.S: In addition to my examples, here comes another one:

    "I said it is over"

    I suppose it is ==> I said "it is over"
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014

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