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The rules of the Sequence of Tenses

1. A present or future tense in the main clause may be followed by any tense in the subordinate clause that is required by the sense.

He tells me he is (was/will be) a student of London University.

I know that she finishes (will finish/finished) her work at 5 p.m.

She says that she has already passed the final exams.

2. A past tense in the principle clause must be followed by a past tense (Past Simple or Past Continuous, Past Perfect, Future-in-the past) in the subordinate clause.

He told me he was going to enter Oxford University.

I knew that she finished her work at 5 p.m.


1) If the action of the principle clause and that of the subordinate take place at the same time in the past, the Past Simple or Continuous is used.

I realized that he didnít believe me.

Mother thought that her son was doing his homework but he was playing computer games.

2) When the action of the subordinate clause precedes that of the principle clause, the Past Prefect is used in the subordinate clause.

I was sure that she had lived in England before.

He understood that he had made some mistakes in his test.

3) We can use the Past Indefinite or Past Continuous when we speak about the exact time in the past with the words: ago, yesterday, in 1990, etc., and the Past Perfect with the words: the day before, two years before, etc.

He said that he left for home at 7 p.m. oíclock.

She said she had gone to the theatre the day before.

I knew he saw her when they were at the party.

We thought she was working in the library yesterday evening.

3. When the action of the subordinate clause refers to a future moment with regard to the past moment indicated in the principal clause, the verb in the subordinate clause is in the Future-in-the-past.

She hoped that she would know the truth about it.

He phoned me to tell that he would be playing tennis the whole evening.

I decided that I would have learned English before going abroad.

4. If there are several subordinate clauses in a sentence, the rule of sequence of tenses is observed in all of them.

She promised that she would help me if she had any free time when she came home from work.

He hoped that he would go to England as soon as he had passed his exams.

The rule about the sequence of tenses applies also to reported speech when the introductory verb is in a past tense (See Reported Speech).

There is no sequence of tenses:

1) if subordinate clause states something as universally or logically true.

The children were explained that water consists of oxygen and hydrogen.

A speaker can ignore the rule and use a present tense after past to be more precise.

He told me he is a good tennis-player. (i.e. he still is)

2) if the dependent clause contains a comparison (after than, asÖas, etc.)

Last year you worked less than you work now.

Last year I worked as hard as I work now.

3) if the dependent clause is an attributive clause or an adverbial clause of cause, result and concession the verb may be in any tense that suits the sense.

Yesterday I translated the text which you are translating now.

He didnít come yesterday because he has been ill for two weeks already.

I worked so much yesterday that I am feeling quite weak today.

She decided to spend her holiday in France though she doesnít speak French at all.

4) note that the modal verbs must, should, ought as well as infinitive, gerund and the forms of subjunctive mood are not affected by the sequence of tenses rule (however must is generally replaced by had to in the past if it expresses necessity arising out of circumstances).

The teacher told the children that they mustnít cross the street against the red light.

She said that she had to answer the telegram at once.

She said that we ought to inform the boss about everything.

I told her that she should consult the doctor.

He wanted to go to London for a few days. He remembered visiting this city years ago.

It is/was important that the manager should sign (or sign) the contract.




Teaching Models


Ex. 1. Study how the tenses are changed according to the Sequence of Tenses rule and write down your example for each tense.

Present Indefinite → Past Indefinite go/goes went Present Continuous → Past Continuous am/ was/ is /going were going are/ Present Perfect → Past Perfect have /gone had gone has/ Present Perfect Continuous → Past Perfect Continuous have/ been going had been going has/   Past Indefinite → Past Perfect (or Past Indefinite) went had gone (went) Past Continuous → Past Perfect Continuous was/ going had been going were/ Past Perfect ↔ Past Perfect had gone had gone Past Perfect Continuous ↔ Past Perfect Continuous had been going had been going   Future: will go would go will be going would be going will have gone would have gone will have been going would have been going

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 2608

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