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I read the following in a book and I couldn't understand the mix of tenses. Is it related to some sort of conditional statements, requests, etc? Can't we simply say: 'Don't you think we go to London?' A thorough explanation would be greatly appreciated.

Don't you think we went to London?

Don't you think we went a little further?

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1 Answer 1

The sentence (Don't you think we went to London?) is grammatical, as is your suggested alternative (Don't you think we go to London?'). But the different tenses convey different meanings.

For sentence one you can imagine a situation where two old friends are discussing a world trip they made 30 years before and are trying to remember if they visited London as part of it.

For sentence two you can imagine two friends are discussing a planned world trip and are not sure whether London will be on the itinerary.

As an aside, it is interesting to note that the question: Don't you think? very commonly introduces an oblique criticism or suggestion:

  • Don't you think you're being a little silly?
  • Don't you think it's time to eat?
  • Don't you think it needs a bit more salt?
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Sentence 2 cannot be put in the context you suggest. Planning an itinerary would require the use of the future aspect, so the question would require will, i.e. "Don't you think we will go to London?". A plausible context would be an incredulous response: Person A: "So do you guys have tube tickets?" Person B: "Don't you think we go to London? We have oyster cards." –  Matt Эллен Mar 22 '12 at 9:53
    
@Matt Эллен, The only way I could extract any meaning from the present simple in the OP's alternative sentence was to see it as referring to a scheduled event, where this tense is very common. Other examples: The plane arrives just after midnight. He leaves for LA tomorrow morning. Do you know what time the train gets in? We go to London in March and Berlin in April. If the two friends are discussing the itinerary of a pre-packaged holiday trek around Europe, it might just be possible to ask: Don't you think we go to London? But I agree that the situation seems very contrived. –  Shoe Mar 22 '12 at 11:06
    
"Don't we got to London?" would be fine, but the additional you think makes it cumbersome to talk about itineraries with. –  Matt Эллен Mar 22 '12 at 11:35
    
@Matt Эллен, Agreed. It works better as "Do you think we go to London?" Even so, while grammatically correct, it's still an unlikely question in the real world. –  Shoe Mar 22 '12 at 11:46
    
@Shoe- I like your examples but I am kind of confused with this: Don't you think it's time we went a little further? –  Noah Mar 22 '12 at 13:28

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