2
  1. I told Cindy we would not be able to eat American Chinese food again for a couple of years, once we moved to Shanghai.

  2. I told Cindy we would not be able to eat American Chinese food again for a couple of years, once we move to Shanghai.

CONTEXT: We have not moved yet. It will happen in the future. But I am recording a conversation that happened in the past--a few hours ago.

My question is: Should I write "once we moved to Shanghai" or "once we move to Shanghai"?

That is, should I use "moved" (#1) in order to be consistent with the tense in the rest of the sentence?


Update (16 hours later): When I wrote my question last night I didn't realise that the tense of "will" should be, and in this case can be consistent with the tense of "move". It is true the impossibility of eating American Chinese food (I crave General Tso's chicken) will occur in the future. I feel now more comfortable saying "I told Cindy that we will not..., once we move...".

  • 1
    It could actually go either way, depending on what you want to convey. If the move is still in your future, you could use move. If in the past, moved. – Robusto Feb 12 '15 at 3:50
  • One more victim of "sequence-of-tenses" zombie rules. There are no such rules in English, regardless of what your English teacher said. You never thought your English teacher spoke English all that well, anyway, did you? – John Lawler May 14 '15 at 1:46
1

Yes, judging from the way it works for me, anyway, "move" in the example is not grammatical. If it were a direct quote, it would approximate:

I told Cindy: "We will not be able to eat American Chinese food again for a couple of years, once we move to Shanghai."

When it is converted to indirect discourse, the verbs shift tense to agree with the past tense "told", "will" becomes "would" and "move" becomes "moved". It might be possible to leave tenses unshifted, to get:

I told Cindy we will not be able to eat American Chinese food again for a couple of years, once we move to Shanghai.

but since the "will" has been shifted to "would", I think you have to shift the "move" to "moved", as well.

  • 1
    And what if you hadn't yet made the move but still intended to? How would you differentiate that without using move? In fact, either is entirely grammatical. – Robusto Feb 12 '15 at 10:16
  • @Robusto, if you haven't made the move yet, you can use the unshifted version with "move", as I said in my answer, but then you have to use "will" instead of "would", because the inability to eat American Chinese food is also in the future. The question is about whether you can use "move" leaving the "would" unchanged, and you can't. My answer is correct. – Greg Lee Feb 12 '15 at 12:02
  • 1
    Nope, sorry, it's not. – Robusto Feb 12 '15 at 12:29
  • I agree with Robusto here—shifting would but leaving move is perfectly fine for me, too (as is leaving both unshifted). Shifting moved somehow jars to me since we know that the move is a future event: it implies the move has already happened. The only option that definitely does not work for me is shifting moved and not shifting will: I can think of no possible way to make “I told her we won’t be able to do that once we went to Shanghai” grammatical. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 12 '15 at 20:57
  • I guess I have a looser idiolect than you do, @Greg. They both seem fine to me. – John Lawler May 14 '15 at 1:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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