When Steve walks in, everyone will stare.

Does the first part of sentence represent present or future? And is the mixing of verbs in the sentence correct?

When steve walks into the room, everyone will stare..

Does the first part of sentence represent present or future? can you explain how it is present and not future


1 Answer 1


The first part of the sentence ("When ...,") is a future conditional. Steven hasn't walked in yet, but we expect him to shortly. English uses the present tense in such cases. The result (the staring) is in the simple future.

And yes, English mixes verb tenses like this to connect temporal statements. Verb tense is a grammatical construct; time, on the other hand, is not a linguistic concept, but rather is one dimension of the Einsteinian spacetime manifold (which is to say the reading on a digital watch, if you prefer). They're not identical, although they are related since some statements are impossible to make sense of, like the ones that put the cause after the effect:

When Steve walks in, everyone has stared.

  • This answer would be greatly improved by omitting everything after the first sentence of the second paragraph. Oct 8, 2015 at 6:06
  • @super_aardvark Really? Then when you get to the second sentence of the second paragraph, you should have stopped reading. Feel free to downvote the answer (preferably with an explanation of why it's unnecessary to point out the distinction between English tense and physical time) or write a better answer of your own.
    – deadrat
    Oct 8, 2015 at 6:12
  • I won't downvote the answer, because it's useful. I can't write a better answer without plagiarizing the first half of yours. However, I assert that anyone capable of using past or future tense has an intuitive understanding that time and language are distinct. Anyway, I apologize for putting you on the defensive; my goal was only to improve the quality of the content on this site. Oct 8, 2015 at 7:07
  • @super_aardvark You have no need to apologize, not least because my supposed defensiveness is something you've read into my response. And it's always good to meet a member of the Improve the Quality of the Site Club. I assert that anyone who has an intuitive understanding of the distinction between English tenses and time is at least a fluent, if not native speaker of the language. Learners of English as a second language, not so much. Pedagogy tends to use a timeline, which doesn't match future conditionals, the enduring present, optional backshifting, and other mysteries.
    – deadrat
    Oct 8, 2015 at 7:22
  • The distinction between language and time has nothing to do with English. There is no language on Earth that is not distinct from physical time. Pedagogy has nothing to do with it either, because everyone also intuitively understands that a timeline is also distinct from physical time; if it wasn't, you wouldn't be able to see the part of it labeled "Future". Oct 8, 2015 at 7:50

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