Is it correct to mix past, present and future tense in a sentence? Is the following sentence correct:

Ask yourself continually, “If I was not doing this already, knowing what I now know, would I get into it again today?”

Is there any other way to re-write the above sentence implying the same meaning?

  • I'd rewrite the sentence as If I were not already doing this, knowing what I now know, would I get into it again today? Most native speakers would claim that your original sentence is perfectly grammatical, but I disagree: It's colloquial, informal, and essentially spoken English, not formal written English, so it's merely acceptable and a solecism-turned-idiom because it's how the lowest common denominators, God love 'em, speak. The middle clause is parenthetical and not important for the main idea of the sentence, which is expressed by the first and last clauses.
    – user21497
    Jan 17, 2013 at 10:07

1 Answer 1


The sentence is in no need of rewriting. And there is no future or past tense that I can see, only irrealis, which is a mood.

  • Should still be were, especially in North American English. They had to correct this very thing in all the Potter books for publication in America so the kiddies didn’t pick up bad habits. Not kidding.
    – tchrist
    Jan 17, 2013 at 9:59
  • @tchrist they meddled with Mark Twain, so I'm not surprised they would meddle with some Brit. At any rate, we have a dedicated question for that.
    – RegDwigнt
    Jan 17, 2013 at 10:02
  • 1
    Also, if there was a mixture of tenses, then it might still be allowed, depending on how it was mixed. "I love it, I have always loved it, and I will always love it" mixes correctly, while "I am going to go and bought some milk" mixes incorrectly.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 17, 2013 at 12:32
  • @tchrist though editors that changed "philosopher's stone" to "sorcerer's stone" [sic] may not be the best target of an appeal to authority ;)
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 17, 2013 at 12:33

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.