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I stumbled upon the following sentence on Huffington Post and noticed that it makes use of brings instead of brought.

Music has always been something that brings people together.

However, I also came across this sentence:

Pop culture has always been something that fascinated me

Noting the use of brings in the first sentence, if we used fascinates instead of fascinated in the second sentence, would it still be correct?

Pop culture has always been something that fascinates me

If using fascinates is wrong, can somebody explain to me why? Does this have to do with the past participle of the verb?

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  • 'Pop culture has always been something that fascinated me' sounds bizarre. You'd rephrase to say 'I was always fascinated by Pop culture in those days.' May 21, 2022 at 11:57
  • I can find plenty of examples of "has always been something that fascinated me" online and it doesn't sound too odd to me - it emphasises that the fascination is long-term, maybe preceding your choice of career/study, although when talking about the present it's less felicitous. Example discussing his entire life from being a young adult: "But life itself has always been something that fascinated me, life in the broadest sense..."
    – Stuart F
    Jan 11 at 9:41

3 Answers 3

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The structure of the sentence is:

Music (subject) has always been … (complement)

Cambridge

Subject and object complements

In clauses with linking verbs (be, seem, become), complements which follow the verb and which add information about the subject are called subject complements

In this case the subject complement for music is “ something that brings people together”. The use of the present tense is correct. The additional information is a feature of music and is not tied to any particular time.

From this perspective, brings and fascinates are both correct and acceptable usage.

To use fascinated is also acceptable. It may hint that something has changed, perhaps it always used to fascinate you but does so no longer. Or it may simply add additional information relating to your own relationship with pop culture rather than a general feature of pop culture.

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  • @PoundHash We surely try to answer questions on the basis of logic, grammar and usage. A simple right or wrong is insufficient. It is therefore commonplace here for material to be put in answers that did not appear in the question; its purpose it to help understand how the answer comes about. In this case the concept of the complement helps understand why "fascinates" is not wrong. If you have a way of tackling the question more economically it will be really good and helpful to read your answer.
    – Anton
    Dec 17, 2021 at 17:45
  • I'd say 'Music has always been something that fascinated me' is incorrect, an unidiomatic attempt at 'Music fascinated me for much of my life' with an implied 'until' but here with a bizarre 'and this fact is/remains a fact'. You need 'fascinates' if it's ongoing. Compare 'Teenage years have always comprised a period I went through.' May 21, 2022 at 12:02
  • "Music has always been something that fascinated me" sounds fine to me. It's maybe waiting something like "and/but lately it's become more/less fascinating" but I don't see any reason why it's wrong.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 13, 2023 at 8:56
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Your three sentences are each complex, i.e., they're made of one independent and one dependent clause.

Music has always been something that brings people together.

  • Independent clause: Music has always been something.

  • Dependent clause: [something/music] brings people together.

Pop culture has always been something that fascinated me.

  • Independent clause: Pop culture has always been something.

  • Dependent clause: [something/pop culture] fascinated me.

Pop culture has always been something that fascinates me.

  • Independent clause: Pop culture has always been something.

  • Dependent clause: [something/pop culture] fascinates me.

The above dependent clauses are all known as relative-clauses. In this case, they're clauses that modify the preceding noun: something. So, because the verbs in question are in distinct (dependent) clauses, the tense of those verbs can be whatever you like: past, present, or even future. (I could say, "Studying has always been something that will earn me great rewards in the future.")

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    Those aren't that-clauses; they're relative clauses. Dec 21, 2021 at 20:51
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To answer your first question, no, using a verb in the simple present tense form after the phrase, "has always been something", is incorrect, because "has always been" is a present perfect phrase with a modifier, "always", which is why the following verb needs to be in the past tense. The "has always been" phrase indicates that it has always been the case in the past, and up till the provided or implied reference point, which would be the time this statement is made.

With the sentence:

Pop culture has always been something that fascinate[d/s] me

Using "fascinated" is grammatically correct, as using "fascinates" would cause a tense error, because the pop culture has always been fascinating, and even now, when the statement is made. The past perfect with a modifier can be confusing, at times, so it is important to understand the context or time frame the verb is referring to. The origin of this fascination was in the past, and the "has always been" phrase conveys the continuation of this action in the present, which is why "fascinated" needs to be used.

According to this source, which also thoroughly explains the present perfect tense, "been" would even become a part of the auxiliary verb, requiring the past participle form for the main verb.

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  • I'd say 'Music has always been something that fascinated me' is incorrect, an unidiomatic attempt at 'Music fascinated me for much of my life' with an implied 'until' and an unnecessary 'and this fact is/remains a fact'. You need 'fascinates' if it's ongoing. Jan 21, 2022 at 14:51

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