present tense after past tense

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Thinkpad, Sep 26, 2010.

  1. Thinkpad Senior Member

    Thai
    Do I need to always use the same tense in the same sentence?

    Can I say "I just heard that she is sick" instead of "I just heard that she was sick" when "she" is still sick now? If so, is there any difference between them?

    Thanks :D
     
  2. Itisamazing Junior Member

    Turkish and Persian
    Hi ThinkPad,

    If she is still sick, using "was" then is not a right choice.
    Hoping English guys would help us to find more.

    Cheers,
    I
     
  3. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    You sure can mix the two, and native speakers do this when they have reason to.
    I just heard that she is sick. = I heard it a little while ago. She is still sick.

    You can really report the same information using the past: A little while ago I heard that she was sick. She probably hasn't had time to recover yet. Your listener will understand this even though you used the past.
     
  4. Masuas Senior Member

    I think it should be the first one '' I just heard that she is sick'', since she is still sick.
    She was sick is in the past, or, I just heard that she had been sick all this time,
    if she's still sick.
     
  5. jimreilly Senior Member

    Minneapolis
    American English
    Yes, if she is still sick, use "is".

    However, you will hear it said both ways, with sometimes quite careless inattention to the exact meaning.
     
  6. Thinkpad Senior Member

    Thai
    Thanks everyone :)

    So, the sentence - I heard that she was sick - can be ambiguous. It can mean both that she is sick now and she was sick but is fine now. Right?
     
  7. Masuas Senior Member

    Right. But it is better to be specific and say exactly whether she's alright now, or not.
     
  8. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Colorado
    English-US
    The context will generally prevent any misunderstanding: I just got back from Vanessa's house. Her mother says she's sick. = I just got back from Vanessa's house. Her mother said she was sick.

    As Mr. Reilly noted, speakers aren't always that careful with their tenses in statements like these. I definitely don't consider it an "error" to use the past here. It's just informal, vague, and conversational.
     
  9. Thinkpad Senior Member

    Thai
    Thanks :D :D :D
     
  10. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    If she's still sick then we can say Her mother said she's sick.

    If we called on her some time ago and found her sick, but have reason to believe she should now be better, the correct form is Her mother said she was sick.

    There's nothing informal, vague, or conversational about this second formula, in my view. Maybe I misunderstood Owlman.


    The general rules are outlined here: these rules are laid out for Germans, a meticulous lot who like to get things right.
     

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