1

A: Why did you call me last night?

B: I just wanted to know if I could use your car when/whenever my girlfriend asks me to pick her up at her home.

I would like to know if the verbs in bold are in the correct tense.

2

In general you shouldn't switch from one tense to another unless the timing of an action demands that you do.

I just wanted to know if I could use your car when/whenever my girlfriend asks me to pick her up at her home.

In your dialogue, Person B establishes the past-tense. The verbs Person A uses: wanted and could are both past-tense (so correct). The verb asks is not, but this is still correct because it is preceded by when/whenever.

This means that Person A's girlfriend is subject to ask(s) at any time (including the past, present, and future); thus, it is correct. If you were to use the past tense (asked), that would be incorrect because it doesn't cover the present and future.

  • 1
    Let's say the time when his girlfriend asked him to pick her up is yesterday and the conversation is taking place now. You should asked as the girlfriend asked in the past. Also, you cannot use whenever in the sentence. It doesn't make sense. – user140086 Oct 2 '15 at 3:38
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    @Rathony In that case it would be: I just wanted to know if I might have been able to have used the car to pick up Jane from the station last night. But it turned out all right, I managed to get a taxi. One could use could have instead of might have been able to have, but in this particular time context it does not sound especially polite. – WS2 Oct 2 '15 at 7:34
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    @WS2 In that case, I would have used "in the future" at the end of the sentence to make it clear. BTW, how many people are lending his car for his friend whenever he askes for a car whenever her girlfreind askes him to pick her up at "home". I would not once in my lifetime unless she is lost in a desert. – user140086 Oct 2 '15 at 10:15
  • @Rathony I don't understand why you would have said in the future. Nothing in the sentence is about the future. – WS2 Oct 3 '15 at 13:40
  • @WS2 If "whenever" is used in the sentence, it indicates "more strongly than when" an action (to ask me to pick her up) in the future. – user140086 Oct 3 '15 at 13:56

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