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in the entry 580.1 "reasons for tense simplification" in Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, he wrote:

"If the main verb of a sentence makes it clear what kind of time the speaker is talking about, it is not always necessary for the same time to be indicated again in subordinate clauses".

Did he actually mean by "main verb" the verb of the main clause in this case? I know the exact defintion of "main verb", but I'm not sure if Michael Swan is using this term in the wrong context in this case. For example:

"I will write you when I have time."

In the main clause "I will write you", the main verb is "write", but it does not indicate the time. The auxiliary "will" indicates the time.

To sum it up, did Michael Swan actually mean the following:

"If the verb of the main clause makes it clear what kind of time the speaker is talking about, it is not always necessary for the same time to be indicated again in subordinate clauses".

Thank you in advance. I really appreciate every helpful answer.

  • In the sentence "I will write you when I have time" the main clause is I will write you and main verb is will write ( in the simple future). In the verb phrase will write write alone is not the verb; it's an infinitive. Similarly in I have written a letter, have written (in the present perfect) is the verb; not written alone. Written is a past participle form. In short, verbs should have tense forms; infinitives or participles do not have them. What Swan says is right and clear as in I will write (future) you when I have (present) time. *NOT...I will have time. – mahmud koya Apr 29 '17 at 18:14
  • When Swan speaks of the 'main' verb, he means the verb in the matrix clause, i.e. the clause containing the subordinate clause. – BillJ Apr 29 '17 at 19:03

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