Past tense and present tense mixed into one statement--an exception that makes it right?

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I know that we should always strive to maintain consistency in the usage of tense when writing. However, I have to believe there must be an exception, here and there.  Here's what I mean:  "What you wrote is wrong."  Of course, someone will say it should say, "What you wrote was wrong."  However, can I make the argument that "What you wrote is wrong" is acceptable (even for the scholarly audience bent on grammar correctness) because I want to make the point of highlighting the wrong? I mean, hypothetically, the only reason I'd write, "What you wrote is wrong," is discuss the very contention of the erroneous matter.  Please tell me that there exists this exception.  I know that generally there are exceptions to such tense-consistency writing--even backshifting--when discussing a universal truth.  I want to know that there is an exception to make "What you wrote is wrong" grammtically correct--even to the most pendatic writer.  So, please, help--I need experts to instill my confidence in grammatical statements like "What you wrote is wrong."  Thanks in advance! 

2 answers


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Yes, Heather, you can mix tenses in a sentence. What you wrote is correct. You wrote in the past, but it is still correct in the present.

link answered Sep 17 '13 at 17:10 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

Very strange. Your answer was an hour before mine, according to the time stamp. When I looked at this, though, there were no answers yet. Hmmm.

Lewis NeidhardtSep 17 '13 at 19:16

Weird. I noticed yours shortly after mine earlier today. At that point, it said you posted four minutes after me, so I assumed you started typing right before I posted my answer. The (non)workings of this website deem to get wonkier as time goes on.

Patty TSep 18 '13 at 04:28

Thank you both

HeatherSep 18 '13 at 10:22

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'What you wrote is wrong.' is perfectly acceptable. It was written in the past (wrote), but it 'is' still wrong in the present.  You want to be consistent in tense when all of the action occurred at the same time. 'He dived into the water and swims.' is obviously wrong because both actions happened sequentially in the past. 'He dived into the water and is swimming laps.' can be correct because he dived in the past, but he is still swimming.

 

The mistake I made yesterday will affect me tomorrow.

In this sentence, I did something yesterday, but the result won't happen until the future.

link edited Sep 17 '13 at 19:40 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow

Thank you!

HeatherSep 18 '13 at 10:22

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