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This is a bit of a complicated question. The context is that someone gave advice to someone else. The whole situation is narrated in the past. I fear that by using the past tense, the reader may understand that the advice was taken heed of (since the verbs are all conjugated in the past), when it was actually completely disregarded right from the start.

Sentence:

Someone suggested I deliberately - if not duplicitously actually - switch to my mother tongue as I spoke English in the meeting, making it look as though I were so nervous in defending myself that I involuntarily inserted a few words from my mother tongue; then follow that insertion with “uh, uh, I am sorry, I mean, uh, . . .”

Now the issue is that this advice was NOT taken heed of. However, because of the past narration (as in 'inserted' and other verbs), I fear it may look like it was. Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance.

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You used the past subjunctive (I were) instead of the past indicative (I was), which to me made it quite clear that you were talking hypothetically and that the character probably did not heed the advice.

If you want to clarify the matter further, then I suggest making the character say that the advice was unheeded. E.g. 'needless to say, I did not heed this advice' or whatever sentence you think fits best.

  • In my view, the giveaway was That I switch rather than that I switched, a point that many native speakers would miss. But I agree that OPs fears are groundless. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Feb 9 '14 at 19:55
  • What about: "Someone suggested I could deliberately - if not duplicitously actually - switch to my mother tongue as I spoke English in the meeting, making it look as though I were so nervous in defending myself that I involuntarily inserted a few words from my mother tongue; then I could follow that insertion with “uh, uh, I am sorry, I mean, uh, . . .” – asef Feb 9 '14 at 20:56
  • That sounds good to me, asef. – Anonym Feb 9 '14 at 21:06

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