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A few months back I met a celebrity and seeing his glamour I felt that I have/had no past or future.

Which is to be used, had or have ?

  • Could you please explain why you are still obsessing over this back shifting? You have, in the past, received many answers explaining the difference between an action completed in the past and one that continues to the present, between reported speech and direct speech. This answer to your question depends on what YOU want to convey. Which is what, exactly? – Mari-Lou A Aug 31 '15 at 5:53
  • @Mari-LouA : I understand that I have asked the same question over and over but believe me I see a lot of people using 'have' even if the words are no longer true. I'm lost. Please help me out. – iamRR Aug 31 '15 at 7:41
  • Why don't you provide those examples then? Real examples, not made up by you. Frankly the expression "seeing his glamour" is not very idiomatic. I would have said: "... seeing his glamorous lifestyle made me feel that I ......" This is a made up sentence by you to test our patience. – Mari-Lou A Aug 31 '15 at 9:14
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Before you can tell what tense to select in your reported speech, you have to know what you meant at the time the event happened. I can think of five things that you might have been feeling at the time:

I feel that

  1. I have no past (simple present): this is the current state of things. Perhaps you once had a past, but the celebrity's glamor has knocked it from your memory. As time moves forward, you may retain the new past. Or not.
  2. I had no past (simple past): The celebrity's glamor is so strong that you feel that you never had a past and you just now sprang into existence.
  3. I have had no past (present perfect): The meaning is the same as 2 (simple past), but you're referring explicitly to a time interval that stretches from the past to right now.
  4. I have no future (simple present): The celebrity's glamor is so strong that you know right now that your existence will cease when the celebrity leaves.
  5. I will have no future (future): The celebrity's glamor is so strong that you predict that it will come to pass that your existence will cease when the celebrity leaves.

Now, we can consider what tense to use when you report that feeling in the past: "I felt that." Tenses and time are closely related but they are different. Ordinarily, for things that remain true or things that are general truths, backshifting isn't required:

Galileo felt that the earth moves around the sun and not, as the Church taught, the other way around.

But your example sentence explicitly ties the tenses to past, present, and future. In particular, your statements about the future affect how to consider the enduring actions in the past. But let's try anyway:

I felt that

  1. I have no past -> I had no past. (backshift to past)
  2. I had no past -> I had no past. (no backshift)
  3. I have had no past -> I had had no past. (backshift to past perfect) The explicit present perfect interval (past up to present) has become an interval starting sometime in the past and going to the past time of your feeling. That's what the past perfect is for.
  4. I have no future -> I had no future (backshift to past)
  5. I will have no future -> I would have no future (backshift to past) Because part of that future, from the feeling to the report of that feeling has already happened.
  • @deadrat -- Thanks for a thoughtful reply. As you say that if what was said holds still true then the present tense is retained. Agreed. Till here no problem. But often I notice people using present tense even if what was said is no longer true. Example : "A month back I met a man but I felt that I am in bad clothes, therefore I didn't meet him". – iamRR Aug 31 '15 at 19:40
  • @deadrat -- As per grammar 'was' should be used instead of 'am'. But I often find people (even native speakers) using 'am'. So my question is, is 'am' also acceptable even if the sentence is Jo longer true ? Or is 'am' incorrect ? – iamRR Aug 31 '15 at 19:44
  • @iamRR Read up about the historic present, which is used to give immediacy to a narrative. – Andrew Leach Aug 31 '15 at 19:45
  • @AndrewLeach -- Does that mean usage of 'are' is totally correct in the above example ? – iamRR Sep 1 '15 at 5:35
  • @iamRR You met a man but you didn't meet him? It would help if I could understand your example. – deadrat Sep 1 '15 at 6:12
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Often I notice people using present tense even if what was said is no longer true. Example : "A month back I met a man but I felt that I am in bad clothes, therefore I didn't meet him."

Here are two slightly different versions of this:

A month back I saw my professor walking toward me on the sidewalk, but I was in my dirty work clothes, so I ducked into a coffee shop to avoid him.

A month back I ran into my snobbish neighbor downtown. Whenever I talk to him I feel badly dressed.

For many of these examples, both tenses would actually work.

If any more example sentences of this very issue come up later that you find confusing, please add them HERE in this thread, and get my attention with "@aparente001" in a comment. Sometimes the question feels answered, but then a month later a follow-up question arises.

  • Is it correct to say the sentence like this : A week ago I was sleeping and when I woke up I saw that "the clock is not working". Look, here I used 'is' but that statement is inside the inverted coma's. The same thing which we use to express direct speech ? – iamRR Sep 10 '15 at 10:52
  • I'm not sure I understand this question... but I would say, "A week ago I was sleeping; when I woke up I saw that the clock was not working." – aparente001 Sep 11 '15 at 4:08

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