About the Sequence of Tenses

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Maxim_R

New Member
Russian
Hi everybody!

Having read one CNN article I have some misunderstanding about the Sequence of Tenses.
Let`s see.
The author writes:
A Senate Democratic leadership aide told CNN that on Monday the Senate will take one simple majority vote to table the various parts of the House bill with which the Senate Democratic majority disagrees.
As I know, we must write "would" instead of "will" in this case.
The second sentence:
The same aide also said that he fears House Republicans will force a shutdown of a few days before they ultimately accept the Senate's version of the funding bill.
Feared instead of fears? Is it right?
But in the next sentence the author writes:
The aide noted that Democrats had already compromised in the Senate version of the funding bill by accepting a lower funding level than they wanted.
Everything is OK.
Can anybody explain me why in one case the author does not comply with the rule but in the other case he writes according to the rule?
Thank you very much.
Link to the article http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/29/politics/shutdown-showdown/index.html?hpt=hp_t1
 
  • Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    The telling takes place in the past, thus "told" and "noted." At the time the writer is writing this and at the time he expects it to be published, the talks are still in the future and he believes that the aide is still in fear of the shutdown which is in the future.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    My comments in blue:

    Having read one CNN article I have some misunderstanding about the Sequence of Tenses.
    Let`s see.
    The author writes:
    A Senate Democratic leadership aide told CNN that on Monday the Senate will take one simple majority vote to table the various parts of the House bill with which the Senate Democratic majority disagrees.
    As I know, we must write "would" instead of "will" in this case. At the time of reporting, the Senate will still take one vote - it is still in the future. The rule you refer to applies only if the vote has already been completed before the time of reporting.
    The second sentence:
    The same aide also said that he fears House Republicans will force a shutdown of a few days before they ultimately accept the Senate's version of the funding bill.
    Feared instead of fears? Is it right? He still fears that they will do that in the future.
    But in the next sentence the author writes:
    The aide noted that Democrats had already compromised in the Senate version of the funding bill by accepting a lower funding level than they wanted.
    Everything is OK. It is all in the past at the time of reporting.
    Can anybody explain me why in one case the author does not comply with the rule but in the other case he writes according to the rule?
    Thank you very much.
    Link to the article http://edition.cnn.com/2013/09/29/politics/shutdown-showdown/index.html?hpt=hp_t1
     

    Maxim_R

    New Member
    Russian
    Ok! I understand it. Simply, I have been taught that If the verb in the main clause is in the past tense, the verb in the object subordinate clause should also be used in one of the past tenses.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Ok! I understand it. Simply, I have been taught that If the verb in the main clause is in the past tense, the verb in the object subordinate clause should also be used in one of the past tenses.
    Indeed: as soon as the vote has been completed, any new reporter telling the story afterwards would have to follow the rule.
     

    nktvnvn

    Member
    Vietnamese
    How about this?

    "Someone called my home yesterday. I picked up the phone. She didn't know who I was."

    I am who I am and that should never change. Can we use that kind of reasoning and say, "She didn't know who I am."?
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    No: you have to use tenses so that they match properly.

    At the time she phoned (yesterday), she didn't know who you were. You're still the same person today that you were yesterday, but she didn't know that when she phoned.

    You could recast the whole scenario to today, though, and say something like:
    "Someone keeps calling my home. I pick up the phone, but she doesn't know who I am" where all the verbs have to be in the present tense.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Ok! I understand it. Simply, I have been taught that If the verb in the main clause is in the past tense, the verb in the object subordinate clause should also be used in one of the past tenses.
    This is where your trouble starts, Maxim.

    Like many rules, this one has exceptions.

    In particular it doesn't apply in two famous cases:

    1. Where the clause reported retains powerful force in the present.

    The electrician said he was coming sometime this week.
    The murderer said he is coming now.

    The old man said the house was easy to find.
    The old man said the house is on fire.


    2. Where the clause deals with eternal truths, like the laws of science.

    The professor said it was time for tea.
    The professor said that the earth is not flat.


    Thus writers have a choice: observing the rule gives an air of normalcy to the writing; not observing it injects immediacy.

    Journalists often wish to inject immediacy into their writing; they think it makes them sound more interesting.
     
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