Tense Shifts Exercise (71)

Revise verb tense in the following sentences to reflect the state of the fact or proposition.

    1.
    It was common knowledge that things fell down when you dropped them.
    It was common knowledge that things fall down when you drop them.

    2.
    He posited that the universe consisted of a space-time continuum.
    He posited that the universe consists of a space-time continuum.

    3.
    She told me that the ACLU is a Communist organization.
    She told me that the ACLU was a Communist organization.

    4.
    The instructors came up with this engaging lesson because they wanted to give younger students a base of understanding for future science projects.
    The instructors came up with this engaging lesson because they want to give younger students a base of understanding for future science projects.

    5.
    He faced a steep learning curve in terms of just how serious fans are about the football program.
    He faced a steep learning curve in terms of just how serious fans were about the football program.

Answers and Explanations

1. It was common knowledge that things fall down when you drop them.
"Things fall down when you drop them" is a perpetual truth, so the verbs in the statement should be in the present tense regardless of the tense of the sentence’s initial verb.

2. He posited that the universe consists of a space-time continuum.
If the proposition is true, the universe is still composed as stated.

3. She told me that the ACLU is a Communist organization.
Depending on the context, was may be correct -- the person who made the statement may have been referring to a previous state -- but if she was referring to it in its present state, the present tense should be used to refer to that state regardless of the use of past tense to report the statement.

4. The instructors came up with this engaging lesson because they want to give younger students a base of understanding for future science projects.
The goal of the instructors is presumably perpetual and has no relation to the verb used to explain what the instructors did. However, in a historical context describing what former instructors did, wanted is correct.

5. He faced a steep learning curve in terms of just how serious fans are about the football program.
Assuming that passion of the fans has not diminished, they should be described as still being serious about the football program.

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