When writing a report to the parents of a student of his test score, you would write something like this:

Your son's first math test was on Friday, his score is/was 96%.

"His score is 96%" seems correct, because at the current moment his score is the same 96%. On the other hand, "His score was 96%" seems to be more correct because you're writing about an event in the past, as if you were saying:

He was awarded the score of 96%.

Which is the correct verb to use?

  • You’ve pretty much answered your own question there. Both are fine, for exactly the reasons you give. (They also both use the same verb, so your final question would be more accurately put as “Which is the better tense to use?”) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 14 '17 at 8:49

I would say the first alternative using "is" is correct.

Your son's first math test was on Friday, his score is 96%.

Compare it to

She is/was married

"Was" implies that she is no longer married, and the same thing applies to your example.

  • 2
    What if today is Thursday, and that kid has done 3 math tests by now? Would you still use present tense, since the score is an undeniable fact? Or would you only use present tense if it's the latest test score? Would you apply the same to "George Washington is/was the first President of the United States"? Because that's still true today, regardless of him being dead now. – Flater Jul 14 '17 at 7:44
  • I understand what you mean, but I think that is different. Being the first president of the US can never change, there can only be one (unless we at some point got new information and it turns out Washington wasn't the first president). A test score can change (maybe because of cheating or fault marking). – loading... Jul 14 '17 at 7:49
  • 1
    But there can also only be one first math test, just as much as there can be only one first president. It's true that they could be speaking of the first math test of the year, but within the context of the example sentence, they are talking about the (definitive, singular) first math test. "A test score can change (maybe because of cheating or fault marking)" So can a presidency, if proof of cheating (e.g voter fraud) is found. The grammatical reason to use past/present tense should not hinge on the ability to retcon, imo, as that is context (and meaning) specific, and grammar is not. – Flater Jul 14 '17 at 8:03

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