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What is the meaning of this sentence:

I didn't think you were

Why is 'were' used here instead of 'are'? How is that different from:

I didn't think you are

2 Answers 2

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"Were" is used because the first verb ("did") is also in the past tense.

If you were to use "are", you would also have to use "do":

Present tense:

I do not think you are...

Past tense:

I did not think you were...

While it makes sense to shift from present to past tense, it does not make sense to shift from past to present (as in your second example). This is because we can have thoughts about the past from the present, but we cannot have thoughts about the present from the past.

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Based on your question I assume you understand "I didn't think you are". "I didn't think you were" is the past tense of the former.

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