tense problem with something that continues into the future

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jj88

Senior Member
English, US
Hi,
Would it be more correct to say
Though a common disease, the doctors said that life expectancy was unpredictable

or

Though a common disease, the doctors said that life expectancy is unpredictable

I'm kind of confused, because the sentence is in the past, and "was" makes sense, but the prediction of life expectencey continues into the future, so "is" also makes sense.

thanks in advance
 
  • GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Though a common disease, the doctors said that life expectancy was
    unpredictable
    .

    Most likely, the person about whom the doctors were speaking has already died from the disease. At the time of the diagnosis, they were unable to predict their patient's life expectancy.

    Though a common disease, the doctors said that life expectancy is unpredictable.

    The patient has already been diagnosed with the disease. However, he/she is still alive. No one can predict how long the patient will live.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    These sentences are so bad I don't have a plausible guess what they mean.

    "Though a common disease" is unconnected, has no clear antecedent-- in your sentence it can be linked with "doctors" or "life expectancy." And then there's an element in the sentence about the latter being unpredictable.

    I wish you'd write a sentence that made sense-- the person with the disease and/or life expectancy is absent.

    And no, the "was unpredictable" says nothing about the continuation or cessation-- of whatever the antecedent subject/verb is. "The doctors said" makes it reported speech, so it can be in the same tense as "said" and still imply futurity, or be a generalization without regard to tense.

    Are you saying that someone has a common disease, but there's no telling how long he might live? That's grammatically clear but still doesn't make sense. "Common" says nothing about the seriousness of the disease, but it's set up as logically connected to the idea of longeivity. Very, very unthought-out sentence and concept.
    .
     
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