I am trying to tell a thing that happened in the past. But that thing has a fact that is still true in the present. Could you tell me which one of the following is true?

  1. I had a lesson with a tutor yesterday, and she is a mom of 3 daughters. (Yesterday, I had a lesson with a tutor who is a mom of 3 daughters)
  2. I had a lesson with a tutor yesterday, and she was a mom of 3 daughters. (Yesterday, I had a lesson with a tutor who was a mom of 3 daughters)

My confusion comes from the conflict between tense consistency and a fact. The first pair of sentences make sense to me as the tutor is still a mon of 3 daughters now. The second pair of sentences keep consistent between "had a lesson" and "she was". But I feel it is a bit wrong to use "She was" as it indicates "She is not a mom of 3 daughters now", which is opposed to the fact.

  • “was” doesn’t imply she isn’t still a mom. We can reasonably assume that hasn’t changed either way in the last day, so either tense works.
    – StephenS
    Commented Oct 31, 2020 at 22:38
  • 2
    If you said "I had a lesson with a tutor yesterday and she was wearing a clown costume for Comic Relief" then the tense agreement is necessary because it's a good bet that she isn't wearing the clown costume today. However if she was the mother of three daughters yesterday she will (barring birth or tragedy) still be the mother of three daughters so the tenses don't have to agree. If she was a visiting tutor who you are unlikely to see again, however, you can refer to her parental status in the past because your encounter with her is over.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 23:27

1 Answer 1


There are no "rules" that you must obey in English: there is only guidance. What follows is guidance.

You are confused by the idea of using the present tense to express "current truths" and using the past tense to give context and background.

If I were writing about the difficulties of a working woman raising children, and I was using her as a current example, I would use “is”. This gives immediacy to the style.

If someone were just discussing things in general and had happened to say, “I’ve got three daughters”, I would use “was” simply to highlight a coincidence – this is background, almost parenthetical information.

None of this is too important; I doubt that native speakers consistently make the distinction between the present and the simple past.

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