I’m trying to write a sentence in which the primary action occurred in the past, but within that sentence is another subject–verb pair in which the verb describes a perpetual state of being.
Here is my original sentence, which recounts a time when I was getting familiar with Christianity as a child:
- I had no idea what a savior is.
Here savior is is the subject–verb pair in question. It sounds funny to me, but it seems grammatically correct. I’m not sure though.
I tried the following variation:
- I had no idea what “savior” means.
Again, I feel like this is correct, but with had as past tense and means as present tense, they sound off in the same sentence.
If I change is and means to past tense are and meant, they sound better in my head.
- I had no idea what a savior was.
- I had no idea what “savior” meant.
But the word savior will always have a definition, and the concept of a savior will always exist.
So the is/means verbs “should” be in present tense, shouldn’t they?