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In this sentence, should the is be a was?

On April 13, 2009, Lugo admitted he is the father of a child conceived with Viviana Carrillo.

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A nice way to get around this is: "admitted to being the father". –  Noldorin Aug 28 '10 at 17:09
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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

On April 13, 2009, Lugo admitted he is the father of a child conceived with Viviana Carrillo.

Boofus McGoofus got this right. I am just going to expand on his answer. The heuristic rule taught to ESL learners is that the past tense should be used for indirect quotations, as in

Lugo: "I admit I am the father of a child conceived with V.C."

Indirect quotation form:

On April 13, 2009, Lugo admitted he was the father of a child conceived with Viviana Carrillo.

But, this rule doesn't have to be applied in the case that the situation is still true, so is can be used. However, in a sentence like

On April 13, 1801, Lugo admitted he was the father of a child conceived with Viviana Carrillo.

"is" would be a little strange because both Lugo and his child are long since gone. So basically the heuristic rule can be broken in the case that the quoted fact is still true.

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I would prefer "is" unless he has stopped being the father sometime since conception. While the child was conceived, he is the father.

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Regarding the style, it depends on the focus

  1. The focus is the question

Is he the father of a child?

then the information in the sentence says only when that information was revealed

On April 13, 2009, Lugo admitted it. it = the current fact that he is the father of a child conceived with Viviana Carrillo.

  1. The focus is something else like the question people had whether he was the father or not

The question people asked three years ago was whether Lugo was the father of a child or not.

On April 13, 2009, Lugo admitted that he was the father of a child conceived with Viviana Carrillo.

If the focus is in the present, you use the present tense, if it is in the past, you use the past tense.

I would use "he was the father" if the story speaks about the dilemma and all the problems around the time related to him being or not being a father. For example:

People questioned his wealth and the decision not to leave anything to his estranged daughter. There was a question hanging in the air of more children of his. One case was especially under a heavy scrutiny. Finally, on April 13, 2009, Lugo admitted that he was the father of a child conceived with Viviana Carrillo.

The entire passage is in the past. The key event is in the past. The dilemma was in the past: "was he or wasn't he the father?", so is the the answer: he revealed that he was.

(However, the language tests usually have no focus to decide about. It is not uncommon to find that you are mistaken in the test because you do not know the way your teacher or school likes to think. In this particular example it is very easy to justify using either the present or past tense unless more of the surrounding story is revealed.)

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