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I have always wondered whether it is allowed to mix tenses in one sentence in english(- and in my native language, danish), which can be quite embarrassing, when the need arises!?


Yesterday, I saw a dead cat, it is on the roof. (somehow, I know that it is still there. Is mixing allowed?)

Yesterday, I saw a dead cat, it was on the roof. (it has been removed. No problem)

Yesterday, I saw a dead cat, it ??? on the roof. (I do not know, if it is still there. What to do?)

Last week, I met my uncle, his name is Zymowch (Yes - he is still alive.)

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closed as not a real question by FumbleFingers, Gnawme, Mitch, Robusto, simchona Feb 25 '12 at 22:24

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I don't understand the point of your ??? example. If you don't know whether it's there or not, why do you want to say this at all? You might as well ask how you say "It was ?? years old" (assuming you don't know). Why not just say "Yesterday, I saw a dead cat on the roof. I don't know if it's still there." Every example is two sentences anyway (the second comma should be a period). Clearly your last example is valid, so I don't see anything of substance in this question. – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '12 at 4:10
@FumbleFingers: I see now that my examples is actually two sentences, but if I was to substitute , with , and would it help? – Hans-Peter E. Kristiansen Feb 25 '12 at 16:32
It seems to me your issue isn't really a matter of language - you need to ask yourself what exact meaning you're trying to convey. You gained some information in the past. If you know it's still true now, you can use present tense to talk about it. If you know it's no longer true, you obviously need past tense. If you don't know whether it's still true or not, you should probably indicate this somehow - for example, "Yesterday, I saw a dead cat on the roof, and it might still be there." The choice of using one or two sentences is irrelevant. – FumbleFingers Feb 26 '12 at 15:47
@FumbleFingers: You are right - the language is irrelevant. I have always been able to communicate the meaning(at least in my native language). My problem was, that I sometimes felt that mixing tenses in one sentence sounded weird. - and maybe were not correct. Thanks to you and Shoe, I don't have this fear anymore. Maybe you don't see any substance in this question, but it helped me. – Hans-Peter E. Kristiansen Feb 26 '12 at 17:36
Yes, please don't misunderstand my first comment. I don't at all mind trying to help people in your situation, and I'm glad to know that you have in fact been helped. My point is simply that I don't see this particular question as being useful for future visitors. Although I may of course be wrong in that, if your unease about mixing tenses in one sentence is something others also feel. – FumbleFingers Feb 26 '12 at 17:49
up vote 3 down vote accepted

It is certainly possible to mix tenses within a sentence.

  • I feel very tired because I went to bed so late.
  • I've bought a bike because I'll be without my car for a month.

The tense of the verb in each clause is chosen to convey the intended meaning.

You can fix your example sentences (which, as FumbleFingers points out, are not correct sentences) by replacing the comma with a conjunction or semi-colon. You then have:

  • Yesterday I saw a dead cat on the roof and it is still there.
  • Last week I met my uncle; his name is Zymowch.

which are perfectly acceptable.

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Sometimes a colon can also work. – tchrist Feb 25 '12 at 6:20
Could you please tell me if it is possible to mix tense in a technical report? Such as write the introduction in present tense and then write completed work in past tense? thanks – MLT Dec 6 '13 at 4:00
@MLT. In principle, yes. To describe a present situation a present tense is appropriate; to report past activities, events, experiments, etc. a past tense is appropriate. The best thing is to read similar reports by reputable writers in your field and see how they structure their texts and the tenses they use. – Shoe Dec 6 '13 at 18:29

I think in this case, I would use 'still'

  • I saw a dead cat yesterday, and it's still on the roof.
  • I saw a dead cat on the roof yesterday; it's still there.
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Usage of tenses is correct, but "i" on its own should be capitalised, while "its" in these sentences is a contraction of "it is" - so it should be apostrophised as "it's". ("its" without an apostrophe means something belonging to it - see first sentence of this comment for correct usage.) – Mark Bannister Feb 25 '12 at 9:28
thanks for the correction mark. – ktkaushik Mar 12 '12 at 8:12

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