Hi,

Today I have a question about tense usage in interrogative content clauses. I would appreciate your help on the following questions.

ex)

A: Let me know who wins.

B: I don't know/know when he will arrive.

I believe these two are perfectly fine sentences as far as the tense structure is concerned. They also have in common that their embeded interrogative content clauses refer to the occurrence of future events.

Then what is it that makes it appropriate to go with the present in one but with the future in the other? How do you formulate rules on this?
Actually, the 2nd is not the usual native utterance, which is:

A: Let me know who wins.

B: I don't know/know when he arrives.
jooneyA: Let me know who wins.
B: I don't know/know when he will arrive.
The real question is how the meaning changes, if at all, when certain parameters are varied.

jooneyHow do you formulate rules on this?
Here are some possible factors to consider when researching this.

1. What role does the introductory clause play?

What is even a good way to classify these introductory clauses?

Do imperatives in this position (Let me know) act differently

from negatives (I don't know) or affirmatives (I know)?

2. What role does the verb type in the content clause play?

If the action of the verb suggests something stative, does it act differently from, say,

a verb which expresses a sudden action?

__________________

1 Let me know who wins. (Let me know later, after the game is played and someone has won.)

2 I don't know when he arrives. (I don't know the time of his scheduled arrival.)

3 Let me know who will win. (Let me know now. The game is fixed. Someone knows even before

the game is played who will win.)

4 I don't know when he will arrive. (There is no schedule. We can only guess

about his arrival time.)

__________________

Personally, I don't know whether there is any systematic relationship between meanings and introductory clause types, content clause tenses, and/or content clause verb types. I wonder if anyone has done the research.

If and when you do do the research, you'll have to deal with ambiguous sentences like

I'll find out when he arrives.

CJ
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Thank you, CJ and Mr. M. It seems like there is no simple answer to this. Emotion: sad I think I have to leave it unsolved for the time being. I'll look more into it, though.
Here is what Leech has to say about it.

"The simple present as subordinate future also occurs in some that-clauses, wh-clauses and relative clauses of future reference:

ex)

A: Just suppose we miss the plane.

B: Make sure you get up early.

C: The press is bound to report what she says tomorrow.

D: I mustn't forget to ask her how much she wants.

E: The man she marries will have to be rich.

"The simple present is used especially where the main clause clearly suggests futurity, and so we can say again that the sentence makes only one reference to the future through verbs like these, and a (future) use of will would be redundant. But some verbs like hope and bet offer a choice between the simple present and will: I hope we (will) win. I bet you (will) win."

But he does not deal with cases where the main clauses refer to states in the present.
Thanks for posting that.

jooneyBut some verbs like hope and bet offer a choice between the simple present and will: I hope we (will) win. I bet you (will) win."
Apparently, the strength of the general rule is diluted by exceptions, which is not at all unusual. Emotion: smile

CJ
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