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I want to say that in the past I decided something that I will do in the future:

Already in my bachelor years I decided that I want work at [. . .] after my master.

Is want here correct, or should it be written in another tense?

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I think it would be: "Already in my bachelor years I had decided that I wanted to work at ... after my master." -- want work sounds weird, do you mean want to work or want a job? –  Stan May 27 '13 at 12:45
    
@Stan, That I want to work at a certain place. Does your change not imply that I wanted it but not anymore? –  sxd May 27 '13 at 12:56
    
@DimitriSurinx: Good question. I do not have a definitive answer for you. I am tempted to say "yes," but perhaps a safer answer is to suggest you simply rephrase the sentence. "In my bachelor years I had already decided I wanted to work at . . .." The "need" for a follow-up sentence such as ". . . but now as a married man I have decided that . . ." isn't as obvious in this recasting of the sentence, IMO. Make sense? –  rhetorician May 27 '13 at 13:37
    
"I want work at..." is the present tense - "I decided that I would want work at..." implies that at that time in the past, I made up my mind that at some point in the future, I would want work there. The absence of to turns "work" into a noun - "I want work" (noun) versus "I want to work" (verb). –  Mark Bannister May 27 '13 at 13:48

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

For consistency, it should be "I decided that I would want work at...".

"I want work at..." is the present tense (ie. it implies that I currently want work there) - "I decided that I would want work at..." implies that at that time in the past, I made up my mind that at some point in the future, I would want work there.

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The sentence is an example of indirect speech (or indirect thought). In direct speech it would be written:

  • Already in my bachelor years I decided: "I want work at ... after my masters."

Other verbs of thinking or saying can be substituted for decided:

  • Already in my bachelor years I realized: "I want work at ... after my masters."

  • Already in my bachelor years I knew: "I want work at ... after my masters."

When transferring these thoughts to indirect speech, it is usual to backshift the verb in the direct speech clause:

  • Already in my bachelor years I decided that I wanted work at ... after my masters.

Note: It is permissible to retain the present tense in indirect speech, if the verb (in this case the 'wanting') still applies:

  • I decided yesterday that I want work at ... after my masters.

However, in the OP's sentence it is clear that the deciding and the wanting are well in the past, and hence the past tense is required for both verbs.

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