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I fly a lot of places (usually within the United States). When I take Delta, the flight attendants seem to recite (with minor differences) a prepared preflight speech detailing safety information.

They seem to have a lot of minor grammatical issues, but the most annoying to me is something like the following: "Pull the mask firmly toward you to start the flow of oxygen. Even though the bag will not inflate, oxygen is flowing." (something similar appears in an official version).

My main concern here is the tense. They are saying that the bag "will (not) inflate" (future) but that oxygen "is flowing" (continuing present). It's surprisingly difficult to come up with a better version, although I thought of a few variations that, if not solving the problem, would at least improve the sound (e.g. "Oxygen flows even if the bag does not inflate.").

Although I can't think of a grammatical reason, I feel like once the imperative tone is dropped (e.g. "[You ]Pull the . . ."), having consistent tenses becomes more important--and not having them becomes more egregious.

The whole thing is supposed to be conditional future also, although tacking the necessary would onto each sentence would decrease clarity, so I agree with their choice to leave it implicit.

I'm not so much asking because I don't know whether this is wrong (I'm almost certain it is), but because I'd like to know what the internet thinks of this. I have never seen anyone else notice this (and because it's so consistent and awkward, I usually visibly cringe).

  • All formulaic speech, especially legally-mandated speech like this, contains oddities of expression and usage that feel strange out of their original context. So it's not surprising it's odd; that's one of the reasons for official speech in the first place -- to make you take notice. – John Lawler Feb 24 '14 at 17:31
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    Second, I hate to be the one to tell you, but there are only two tenses in English: present and past. All the rest of the so-called "tenses" are just old fancy names for a few of the several thousand combinations of auxiliaries and verbs possible in English. So don't worry about mixing them. And don't worry about correctness unless you know the actual rules. – John Lawler Feb 24 '14 at 17:34
  • I think I've sometimes heard it as "Even though the bag does not inflate, ..." – Barmar Feb 24 '14 at 20:17
  • When you fly to San Francisco, be sure to spend some time in the BART system, where you'll almost certainly hear this announcement at some point: "Report any suspicious packages to the train operator, station agent, or call BART police at 877-679-7000." – Sven Yargs Feb 25 '14 at 23:41
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is a rant. – MrHen Feb 26 '14 at 19:07
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To be technical you could say:

Even though the bag will not inflate, oxygen will flow.

-or-

… oxygen will be flowing at that time.

They just don't sound so great.

My advice, keep your earphones on and listen to music. Order a drink from the flight attendant, and try not to worry about the proper tense. Worry more about the large metal object's lack of desire to remain airborne except for a few miracles in engineering.

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    Well, it would make one special to be probably the first passenger in airline history to be wondering about the grammatical correctness of the pre-flight safety instructions while going down in flames... – oerkelens Feb 24 '14 at 21:29
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    @oerkelens That could be quite true! Flight Attendant: "Sir, we need you to remain calm!" Passenger: "But, you said oxygen will be flowing!!!!! FLOWING!!!!!!!!!!!" – David M Feb 24 '14 at 22:17

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