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For my sins, I have to proofread a whole lot of reports written by my fellow teachers, and as a science teacher I get stretched to the limit. The language used in the reports has to be very formal. Anyway, the sentence reads:

"There were some gaps in topic vocabulary and it was clear that his knowledge and understanding of how to form and when to use the different tenses are rather shaky."

My problem is with the "are", third word from the end. I think it should be "was", as the sentence is set in the past and the little perisher may have done some work on the problem since then. Am I correct? Is the general rule that you cannot link tenses in this way?

Thanks

Shrike
Comments  
I'd feel a lot better if 'are' were 'was', too, even if his knowledge is still shaky.
"...as the sentence is set in the past..."

Is the larger context also set in the past, or perhaps could it be understood that the writer of the report thinks it more important to speak to a current, ongoing situation? In which case, the verbs would be more appropriately be:

"There are some gaps in topic vocabulary and it is clear that his knowledge and understanding of how to form and when to use the different tenses are rather shaky."
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edit button: 'more appropriately be:"
Yes, I reckon you have got it. My original had a mistake in it anyway - I put "was" when there were both "knowledge and understanding," which would mean that "were" is more appropriate.
Interesting. I'd be more inclined to say 'was', Shrike. 'Knowledge and understanding' seems like a composite concept, in this context.

MrP
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
The thing about English is that there are no hard and fast rules once you reach a certain level of basic comprehensibility. You can alter the spelling and grammar for effect and style, which makes extreme formality difficult.
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