"It was about....."?? Past tense=remote??

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Amber_1010, Oct 27, 2012.

  1. Amber_1010 Senior Member

    Hong Kong
    Chinese-Cantonese
    Hello. Please help!

    Situation 1.
    I read a book last night. It was about chemistry.

    Situation 2:
    I'm reading a great book. It's about chemistry.

    I know the past tense tell us about the past, but in situation one, why should I use the past tense? Even if I hadn't read the book, the book will still be about chemistry, isn't it a fact? Why can't we use the present tense?
    While for situation two, I think it makes sense to me.

    Please explain! Thanks!
     
  2. Biffo Senior Member

    England
    English - England
    It is difficult to draw a dividing line.

    I read a book many years ago. It was about chemistry. (the book may no longer exist)

    I read a book yesterday. It is about chemistry. (This is possible)

    More idiomatic:
    I read a book yesterday. It's a chemistry book. (This suggests that we shall continue talking about the book in the present)

    I read a book yesterday. It's a chemistry book. Would you like to borrow it?
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2012
  3. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    It's not possible for me. If it was the title of the book, then it might be.

    I read a book yesterday, it was about some strange religious nonsense.
    I read Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code yesterday*. It is about some strange religious nonsense and is the worst-written book I have ever read**.

    *That's a lie, I only read the first page.
    ** that bit's true .

     
  4. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    I'd stick with the past tense in both of the sentences, if only for the sake of consistency. Let us consider the following context, though:

    (I'm talking to my friend in my house, possibly near my home library)
    I read a book yesterday.
    (taking the relevant book out of the shelf and handing in to my friend)
    It's about chemistry.

    Wouldn't it make more sense to use the present tense here?
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2012
  5. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    Devon
    British English
    Yes, but in that case the book is being talked about in the present, which is different from the case so far in this thread, where an unspecified book remains in yesterday.
     
  6. dreamlike

    dreamlike Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Yes, of course, I just wanted come up with the context in which it would be actually possible to say this.
     

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