Tense agreement

Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2014 05:26 am

I have a question regarding tense agreement. I am grading an English exam and wasn't sure whether I should give points for the sentence I'm inquiring about.

Correct answer:
[ Jenny didn't start the letter by saying she was sorry. ]

Is the following sentence also grammatically correct, assuming Jenny is still sorry in the present moment?

[ Jenny didn't start the letter by saying she is sorry. ]

Your help will be great appreciated.
Thank you so much.
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Reply Wed 30 Apr, 2014 05:57 am
As a British speaker I find the second version "incorrect".
The problem with this type of inquiry is that a "comparison situation" is not the same as a "judging a phrase in isolation". The first item implies the letter refers to a past state of mind, the second to an ongoing state of mind and either could be contextually valid. From that point of view different definitions of "grammar" come into play in which traditional prescriptive grammar takes "the sentence" as the focal element, whereas other grammars ( that of Halliday for example) take the whole discourse into account.
Reply Thu 1 May, 2014 11:04 pm
Thank you so much for your explanation, that was really helpful!
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