2

Pikachu strolled along the street blissfully unaware that the Earth is round.

or

Pikachu strolled along the street blissfully unaware that the Earth was round.

What is the rule/preference for such cases when we talk about general truths but within a context that uses the past tense?

2

"unaware" has no tense. It adopts the past tense of "strolled." See what happens in the present continuous tense:

Pikachu is strolling along the street blissfully unaware that the Earth is round.

When the verbal phrase is in the past tense, the reported thought becomes past.

Pikachu strolled along the street blissfully unaware that the Earth was round.

Tenses in indirect speech are explained here [BBC]

  • 1
    Thank you. A very useful link. If this is the first time I mention street, should I use the indefinite article instead of definite one with it: "along a street"? – Siegfried Zaytsev Aug 9 '15 at 15:30
  • OK. Is it a mistake to use the indefinite article with the word context like I did in the title of this question? What is preferable here? A, the or no article at all? – Siegfried Zaytsev Aug 9 '15 at 15:59
  • The title is good. – Hugh Aug 9 '15 at 16:04
  • @SiegfriedZaytsev - It is natural to say "strolling along the street" -- similar to "passing the time." – aparente001 Aug 9 '15 at 22:49
  • 'Pikachu strolled along the street blissfully unaware that the Earth was round." There is a very basic error here. The Earth was round then and IS round even now. So we may say 'Pikachu strolled along the street blissfully unaware that the Earth IS round." – Abhilaaj Jul 30 '16 at 5:35
1

I prefer "was round".

Reasoning

Pikachu was under a misapprehension. He thought the Earth was flat.

We can't say, "Pikachu thought the Earth is flat" because it isn't. Therefore we aren't describing a general truth. We have to say, "Pikachu thought the Earth was flat."

In order to match tenses we say, "Pikachu was unaware that the Earth was round."

  • Saying "Pikachu was unaware that the Earth was round", you don't exclude changes on the shape of the earth. Whilst "is round" suggests some stability in earth description. I realized that i am just rewording Antons answer. – Graffito Aug 8 '15 at 21:38
  • I don't know the context of the story. Can Pikachu's world change in shape? If Pikachu lives in our world then our common sense tells us the world hasn't changed. We don't need to exclude changes. – chasly from UK Aug 8 '15 at 22:16
0

As a rough guide, I think your first applies best when the general truth still applies. I would therefore prefer your first. The second applies best when the once-general truth is no longer true. For example - he walked into Stalingrad, unaware that the city was in ruins. (I have altered my own "was destroyed" to chasly's rather nicer version "in ruins".)

  • "Destroyed" is ambiguous there. It could be past participle or adjective. Maybe "...unaware that the city was in ruins." – chasly from UK Aug 8 '15 at 21:23
  • Quite right. I have altered my answer accordingly. – Anton Aug 9 '15 at 6:02

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