I always thought I speak/spoke [tense]

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tomtombp

Senior Member
Hungarian
"I always thought I speak more American than British English."

Does this sentence sound good to you?

It wouldn't sound well with "spoke" to me.

Is the "speak more American than British English" part correct?
 
  • lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    Does this sentence sound good to you?

    It wouldn't sound well with "spoke" to me.
    Look at this.

    I always think I speak more American than British English, but my late grandfather always thought he spoke more British than American English.
    I feel this is OK.
    Do you feel this is incorrect?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It sounds perfectly good to me with "spoke", tomtombp: "I always thought I spoke more American than British English."

    I'd say that the general rule is "backshift unless you have a particular reason not to backshift".
     

    Greyfriar

    Senior Member
    Hello,

    Perhaps you should change your 'thought' to the present tense. 'I always think I speak more American than British English.'

    If you use the past tense 'I always thought I spoke..........' it could mean that you used to but don't any more.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Indeed. My speaking hasn't changed, rather my thinking has changed*. So "thought", but "speak".

    (I think the OP's statement may now apply to me:D)

    Cross posted and adding* : I took it to mean that the OP had been told otherwise, and believed it.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    ... If you use the past tense 'I always thought I spoke..........' it could mean that you used to but don't any more.
    Yes, it could mean that but it doesn't necessarily mean that. I always thought I spoke... is the standard past-tense version of I always think I speak....

    -------------
    (Now lost in the cross-postings:eek:)

    ------------
    (I may have misunderstood: Greyfriar - when you said "used to", did you mean "used to think" or "used to speak"?)
     
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    lapdwicks

    Senior Member
    Sinhala
    Hello,

    If you use the past tense 'I always thought I spoke..........' it could mean that you used to but don't any more.
    With the frequency adverb "always", doesn't it mean something different to "used to think"?

    I feel, I always thought so, but now feel it's the time to change the way how I did (because of something).
     

    tomtombp

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Indeed. My speaking hasn't changed, rather my thinking has changed*. So "thought", but "speak".

    (I think the OP's statement may now apply to me:D)

    Cross posted and adding* : I took it to mean that the OP had been told otherwise, and believed it.
    Exactly. More exactly I don't believe it, I'm questioning it. Sorry I had to leave so I couldn't react to your replies and give context but now I'm back. I always thought I speak more American than British but I just took a test that said my English version was New Zealand-er or Australian or Singaporean. All of them are closer to British than to American (it was a written test). I doubt the test was right.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    So your thinking has indeed changed as a result of taking that test. (I think I saw it somewhere and wondered how I'd do:D) Thus, thought would be the correct tense.

    (I may now try to untangle the cross-postings I missed. But maybe not.)
     

    brightflame

    Senior Member
    I agree using past tense here as opposed to present changes the meaning. If present is used, it suggests the speaking is still actual.

    However, Loob is right about the past being the standard grammatical form here.

    In usage, though, the present is accepted if (and only if) it is used to point out the action is still very actual or impossible to ever cease. Consider these two examples:

    He said Venus is a planet.
    He said Venus was a planet.
    He said Pluto was a planet.

    In my opinion, the "is" form is much more natural when used to refer to "Venus being a planet", while the "was" suggests it was a planet then, but might not be, or isn't now.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    ...
    In my opinion, the "is" form is much more natural when used to refer to "Venus being a planet", while the "was" suggests it was a planet then, but might not be, or isn't now.
    That's where we differ, brightflame:).

    I would say that He said Venus was a planet is absolutely neutral as to whether Venus still is a planet. In the same way, I told him my name was Loob says absolutely nothing about whether I've changed my name since the time of speaking: it's simply the normal past tense reported speech version of the direct speech "My name is Loob".

    You would only not backshift in past tense reported speech if you wanted to lay stress on the present tense for some reason.
     

    kalamazoo

    Senior Member
    US, English
    I don't really like the original sentence. I would at least change it to say "I always thought I spoke more American English than British" but I would far prefer something like "I always thought the English I spoke was more AmE than BrE" or something like that. The original sounds like it refers to some 'quantity' of English in a peculiar way.
     

    brightflame

    Senior Member
    That's where we differ, brightflame:).

    I would say that He said Venus was a planet is absolutely neutral as to whether Venus still is a planet.

    We don't differ that much. I am talking about correct usage. In my experience, both uses are considered acceptable, the tense shift being traditionally (and still) the default.

    The present tense (to my knowledge) is NOT considered incorrect in the instances I mentioned, especially in modern use.
     

    tomtombp

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    I don't really like the original sentence. I would at least change it to say "I always thought I spoke more American English than British" but I would far prefer something like "I always thought the English I spoke was more AmE than BrE" or something like that. The original sounds like it refers to some 'quantity' of English in a peculiar way.
    :thumbsup: Thanks. That sounds better.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Murky-ish

    Tense match 1): If I return to England in the future and then, many years later, reminisce about my time in America, I would want to emphasize the way I spoke back then, so I would use "spoke". "When I was in Califormia, I always thought I spoke more American than British English."

    Tense match 2): I am still in America and suspect I might now speak more American than British English.
    "I think I speak more American English than British".

    Then I take the test and my speaking doesn't change but my thinking just did..
    Tense mismatch 1) : "I just found out I speak more American than British English."

    Tense mismatch 2): "Until I took the test I always thought 'When I speak English in America, I speak more American English than British' ".

    I don't have a problem with the last sentence, even though I understand other people might:D
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Dunno:D My problem is the fact that the way I speak didn't change, so it seems like it's one of those "eternal" truths. Galileo discovered that the earth goes round the sun.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    My use is like Loob's: thought and said lead to the embedded/reported clause being in the past tense, with no implication about whether it is currently true.

    You also suggested that because it was a written test, the results are inaccurate. It's normal to talk about speaking a language without thinking about pronunciation and accent - the test was probably more concerned about your grammar.
     

    mycityofsky

    Senior Member
    Mandarin
    Given the following examples:

    I didn't realize he was right.
    I didn't realize he is right.

    I know the first sentence is correct. But how about the second one? If what he said is, say, "1+1=2", which is absolutely right, no matter it is in the past or now, can I use the verb just like the second sentence, showing he is right even now?

    Thank you. :)

    <Moderator note: Thread now merged with an earlier thread>
     
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    Chimon

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    If you say, "I have always thought..." you are now using present tense and so you would have the tense match with, "I speak more American than British English."

    If you say, "I always thought..." you should match it with "spoke."
     

    tomtombp

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    If you say, "I have always thought..." you are now using present tense and so you would have the tense match with, "I speak more American than British English."

    If you say, "I always thought..." you should match it with "spoke."
    In speaking and informal writing dropping "have" still meaning present perfect is acceptable isn't it? Wouldn't it work in this case? Of course I was using "informal" (without have) present perfect here.
     

    tomtombp

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    I found this in my email box this morning:

    "Did you know that Twitter generates personalized Who To Follow suggestions for you?"

    It's the same structure as my "I always thought I speak...", isn't it?
     
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    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    I always thought I speak... is logically impossible. Unless I had the gift of prophesy, how can I have thought (in the past) what I speak (in the present)? My speaking isn't an eternal truth.

    Putting it as a question, Tomtombp, changes the rules. The person can reply to "Did you know that Twitter generates personalized Who To Follow suggestions for you?" with the answer: "I didn't know before, but I do now". The knowing is in the present, even if the question refers to the past.
     

    tomtombp

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    Sorry to reignite this thread but I wonder what you would use in borderline cases:

    When I wanted to buy a Ferrari I didn't know that Ferraris have only two seats.

    Following the logic above should this sentence be "When I wanted to buy a Ferrari I didn't know that Ferraris had only two seats."
    It had seemed an eternal truth until the debut of the FF which had (has?) two seats.
    What if I said that sentence before that time?

    Or I send an email with some files and my instruction says:
    "I marked the file names red to indicate that those files are corrupt."
    Should it be:
    "I marked the file names red to indicate that those files were corrupt."

    There's not much chance the files fix themselves while my email goes through.

    Thank you.
     

    kalamazoo

    Senior Member
    US, English
    In those two examples, I think the present tense is okay, and for the corrupted files, I think present tense is even preferable. The state of the Ferrari and the state of the files are not affected by your thoughts or actions.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I would write '... that Ferraris had only two seats' because that sentence reports thought. This is the normal procedure of backshift for reporting thought and speech.

    Your other sentence is not about speech or thought, so there's a little more flexibility (for me).
     

    tomtombp

    Senior Member
    Hungarian
    I would write '... that Ferraris had only two seats' because that sentence reports thought. This is the normal procedure of backshift for reporting thought and speech.

    Your other sentence is not about speech or thought, so there's a little more flexibility (for me).
    Thank you.

    What if I add "meant" so that it becomes more of a thought or speech:

    By marking the file names with red I meant that those files are/were corrupt.

    Thank you.
     
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