<As> ...... <left> the courtroom, their mood <can> only be described as grim

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VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
An announcer says: As the defense attorneys for Tango and Cash left the courtroom, their mood can only be described as grim. They clearly face an uphill battle, if not an impossible one.
Tango & Cash, movie

I can't bring together those three boldfaced words. If "as" here means "while", then she says "left" (the past tense), but then it's followed by "can" (the present tense)... I'm confused...
Thank you.
 
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If the announcer is describing the scene as it happens, then it should be "As the defense attorneys for Tango and Cash leave the courtroom, their mood can only be described as grim."

    Either way, the original is sloppy.


    Cross-posted.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    An announcer says: As the defense attorneys for Tango and Cash left the courtroom, their mood can only be described as grim. They clearly face an uphill battle, if not an impossible one.
    I think it is just a shift in tense caused by rethinking the sentence as the speaker goes along. The attorneys left in the past, so that part makes sense; and the description is going on in the present, so that part makes sense too -- he's talking about how the mood can be described now because he is describing the mood now. The problem from a strict point of view is that the sentence shifts from one timeframe to the other in the middle. But this is spoken language. He's making it up as he goes. There is nothing in the least unusual about something like that.
     

    Jason_2_toi

    Senior Member
    English-Scotland
    I agree entirely with Glen, that there's nothing wrong with the sentence. The writer is of course talking in the present, and could have equally easily have said

    I can only describe their expressions,

    as they left the courtroom,
    as grim.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I agree entirely with Glen, that there's nothing wrong with the sentence. The writer is of course talking in the present, and could have equally easily have said

    I can only describe their expressions,

    as they left the courtroom,
    as grim.
    I'm happy with that version because the structure clearly places the describing in the present.

    The original, equally clearly, places the describing in the past:
    As the defense attorneys for Tango and Cash left the courtroom, their mood can only be described as grim.

    The blue text says when the rest of the sentence happened - in the past. The red text says what happened (or could have happened) - and should be in the past.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm with Jason, I think.

    If we can justify I can only describe their mood as they left the courtroom as grim - and I think we can - then it's equally possible to justify Their mood as they left the courtroom can only be described as grim ... and As they left the courtroom, their mood can only be described as grim;).
     

    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    I'm with Jason, I think.

    If we can justify I can only describe their mood as they left the courtroom as grim - and I think we can - then it's equally possible to justify Their mood as they left the courtroom can only be described as grim ... and As they left the courtroom, their mood can only be described as grim;).
    I'm with first three speakers then:), the first two sentences are quite different from the third:
    I can only describe their mood as they left the courtroom as grim.
    Their mood as they left the courtroom can only be described as grim.

    Here, the boldfaced phrases are the object of the verb and the subject of the verb respectively. And "their mood" refers to the past, the time when they left the courtroom.

    As they left the courtroom, their mood can only be described as grim

    Here, the bold faced phrase and "their mood" refer to the different times, though they shouldn't.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I'm with Jason, I think.

    If we can justify I can only describe their mood as they left the courtroom as grim - and I think we can - then it's equally possible to justify Their mood as they left the courtroom can only be described as grim ... and As they left the courtroom, their mood can only be described as grim;).
    Let's play with the structure of third sentence. It's introduced by a setting in the past and followed by a statement in the present.
    As they left the courtroom, their mood can only be described as grim.
    As they left the courtroom, I can describe their mood as grim.
    As they left the courtroom, I can see the colour of their eyes.

    Sorry, I can't help but cringe at this combination of tenses.
     
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