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Hello!

I have read that in modern English it's possible to use a present tense in a subordinate clause even if a main one is in a past tense. Is it acceptable for colloquail English only? Should I adhere to traditional sequence of tenses in official language? Or the latter admits the mentioned usage too?
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Hi Ruslana,

I have read that in modern English it's possible to use a present tense in a subordinate clause even if a main one is in a past tense. Is it acceptable for colloquail English only? Should I adhere to traditional sequence of tenses in official language? Or the latter admits the mentioned usage too?

Can you provide a few examples of what you are thinking of?

How about 'As you know, I passed the exam'?

'I discovered that he speaks Russian'.

These are fine.

Best wishes, Clive
Oh, yes, sorry. I should have provided some examples.


"We learnt that he has been director of the company for about ten years."


"I was sure that you know it!"
Is it correct in official speech (language)? Or one should use, accordingly, Past Perfect and Past Simple?

I wonder because I was taught that sequence of tenses must usually be used in most cases (apart from some exceptions) if a main clause verb is in a past tense. So, I was a bit confused when I read here that "I discovered that he speaks Russian" and other similar phrases are absolutely right. It seems the usage I was taught is rather out of date. At least, in spoken English. That's why I'd like to know what rule I should stick to in official language and whether the latter is as flexible now as colloquial.

Lastly, are the sentences with blue verbs normal in official/spoken speech?
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Hi again,

Oh, yes, sorry. I should have provided some examples.


"We learnt that he has been director of the company for about ten years." Yes, to be very correct, I'd use Past Perf. here. However, you'll hear Pres. Perf. for cases where what is said is still true at the moment of speaking, and this is seen as acceptable.

"I was sure that you know it!" This sounds odd. Here, Simple Past should be used.
Is it correct in official speech (language)? Or one should use, accordingly, Past Perfect and Past Simple?

I wonder because I was taught that sequence of tenses must usually be used in most cases (apart from some exceptions) if a main clause verb is in a past tense. Generally speaking, that's true. But remember that you can say things like 'I learned that she will arrive on Monday' without breaking any rules.

So, I was a bit confused when I read here that "I discovered that he speaks Russian" and other similar phrases are absolutely right. It seems the usage I was taught is rather out of date. Perhaps. And of course, language is full of exceptions. At least, in spoken English. That's why I'd like to know what rule I should stick to in official language and whether the latter is as flexible now as colloquial.

Lastly, are the sentences with blue verbs normal in official/spoken speech? Yes, fine.

I hope you don't mind another small comment. You are speaking of 'official language'. That doesn't seem to be a common term on this Forum. When I first read it, I thought perhaps you were speaking of language used by govt. officials, but now I see that is not your meaning. The commoner term on the Forum seems to be 'formal'. Unlike with French, there is no 'official body' that sets standards for 'correct English'. Perhaps this may sound inefficient or untidy to you, and perhaps it is. The English see this as freedom, although others may simply feel that the English are an undisciplined nation!

Best wishes, Clive

Oh, it's "formal" indeed. I clean forgot this word.

Clive, I don't mind any your comments!

Honestly, now I am confused why I was sure that you know it!sounds odd whereas other such phrases don't. Is there any ways by means of which I can find out whether present tense may be used or not in a subordinate clause?.. It seems one has to be a native to see that. Emotion: tongue tied
CliveUnlike with French, there is no 'official body' that sets standards for 'correct English'. Perhaps this may sound inefficient or untidy to you, and perhaps it is.
Quite the contrary. I don't know what about French, but in comparison with Russian, English language isvery "standardized". For example, I have heard that absence of definite word order in Russian drives some learners of it mad. On the other hand, while reading the forum I see that modern English has lost its strict word order, hasn't it?.. Well, that moves English nearer to Russian then. Emotion: geeked
Hi again,

Honestly, now I am confused why I was sure that you know it! sounds odd

I'll try to explain. 'I was sure' in this sentence implies that in fact I was mistaken. In other words, it implies that you didn't know it. And if you didn't know it then, that implies that you probably don't know it now. Thus, the present tense sounds odd here.

Clive
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Ah, I got it.

Thanks very much, Clive! Emotion: smile