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Which of the following, if either, is correct? Each line is the beginning of a new paragraph, but still in the same time (i.e., not swapping between past and present).

This morning I left class after having an argument with my teacher.

She is an old lady that wears large glasses with very thick lenses. She had to special order the lenses.

or

This morning I left class after having an argument with my teacher.

She was an old lady that wore large glasses with very thick lenses. She had to special order the lenses.

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  • You can, of course, use whatever style you want when "telling a story", but the first example is the "correct" one. (In fact, it might be more "correct" to say "She is an old lady who wears large glasses with very thick lenses. She has to special-order the lenses.")
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 2:21

1 Answer 1

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The first example is correct. You can switch tenses in this case, since the old lady presumably continued being an old lady at the time of writing the paragraph.

From the Wikipedia article on relative and absolute tenses:

Absolute tense means the grammatical expression of time reference (usually past, present or future) relative to "now" – the moment of speaking. In the case of relative tense, the time reference is construed relative to a different point in time, the moment being considered in the context.

In other words, the proper tense can be designated not only by the time of utterance, but also relativized to the moment being addressed.

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