It is doubtful that he told the truth. (Sequence of tenses)

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by PeppermintPattie, Apr 30, 2013.

  1. PeppermintPattie Junior Member

    English - USA
    I know that the Sequence of Tenses dictates that the subjunctive verb must be in the past tense if the dominant verb is past tense and that it must be in the present if the dominant verb is in the present or future tense.

    If I want to say "It is doubtful that he told the truth" (expressing in the present tense that something in the past may not have happened) may I say "Es dudoso que él dijera la verdad" or must I use the perfect tense and say "Es dudoso que él haya dicho la verdad"?

    Some native speakers tell me that mixing the tenses is acceptable but I'm wondering if that is the influence of English and if it is not accepted in educated speaking and writing.

    What do you think?
  2. SevenDays Senior Member

    Both are past tenses, and both are subjunctive, so it's not unusual that where one goes, so does the other. The only difference is in terms of aspect: dijera is imperfect; haya dicho is perfect. In other words, with "dijera" the speaker conveys the idea of "decir" without any boundaries; with "haya dicho," "decir" is presented as completed. Because both are past, the aspectual difference is rather minimal to the point that they are interchangeable. The choice of one of the other is a matter of stylistic choice, and both are idiomatic.

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