When I am reporting the status of some results, should I use past tense? For example, would it be correct to say, when the test result was announced in the past, "Your test result was failed. I am sorry about that." I know we have "backshift" in English. Does this mean that I can use present tense or past tense in this kind of sentence? For example:

Your test result is failed. I am sorry about that.

Didn't you have my message? I had your message. [or] I have your message.

Am I right that it depends on what the time is that is in the speaker's mind when thinking of the action—whether he/she is thinking of now (he/she still has the message) or of the action in the past (he/she had it already)?

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    You failed your test, Didn't you get my message and I got your message. I think this question would feel better at home on English Language Learners. – oerkelens Jun 9 '15 at 8:31

Your first example, mixes present and past tense. is and failed... regardless of which tense you pick, you should be consistent. Instead of

Your test result is failed. I am sorry about that.

I would write

You failed the test. I am sorry about that.

And instead of conjugating have with

Didn't you have my message? I had your message. [or] I have your message.

I would suggest you use the verb receive instead

Did you receive my message? I received yours.

  • I thought "failed" is an adjective. That's why I put it in the sentence. "Your test result is failed. I am sorry about that." – Kam Jun 4 '15 at 4:55
  • @Kam Verbs have tense. In the US, you take a test (I think I've also heard sit for an exam). And, you may pass or fail a test you take. Finally, that means those tests can be passed or failed. Hope that helps. – Elliott Frisch Jun 4 '15 at 5:05
  • How's about the "backshift". Am I correct about it? – Kam Jun 4 '15 at 11:30
  • @Kam Wikipedia says backshift is (grammar) The changing of the tense of a verb from present to past in reported speech. So I'm curious how you would backshift an adjective. "How about the backshift?" Kam asked, I replied what about the backshift. – Elliott Frisch Jun 4 '15 at 12:49
  • You could certainly say Your test result is 'Failed'. just as you could say Your result is 45%. Outside that rare construction, it is best not to make the result the subject of a sentence. – TimLymington Jun 8 '15 at 17:10

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