I have a question that really confuses me. Imagine I was chatting with my friends in a cafe, and friendA walked out the place for whatever reason. FriendB replied "she was beautiful," in this case shouldn't it be "she is beautiful? Or is there any other meaning behind it?

  • In my view you are right. She is still beautiful, and "She is beautiful" or "A beautiful girl" would be better. But in colloquial speech you often say things that considered later are not for print. – rogermue Jun 14 '15 at 18:16
  • 1
    FriendB is casting their mind back to the time when they were looking at FriendA. That might only have been 30 seconds ago, but it's still in the past, and so their instinct is to use the past tense. As @rogermue says, it's colloquial, but very common. It doesn't have any particular meaning. – Morton Jun 14 '15 at 18:25
  • Literally speaking, the word "is" would be better, since as rogermue said, she's still just as beautiful when he said it as she was when he saw her. However if we read a little deeper into it, the implication of speaking in the past tense is that as far as he's concerned, she's only in his past now. After-all he'll probably never see her again if he did not get any of her contact information. Otherwise, I'm inclined to agree with Morton's reasoning. – Tonepoet Jun 15 '15 at 5:26

I prefer "is" in this case, but either could work. "Was" has something of a nostalgic / reminiscent feeling. I would say it has a slight implication of not expecting to see the person again.

Imagine seeing somebody on vacation, and then telling a friend about it. If it was some random person on the street you might say "she was so beautiful". If it was a friend that you just happened to run into, I think it would now be more appropriate to say "she's so beautiful".

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.