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Was-is /questions

Forum > English only || Bottom

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Was-is /questions
Message from happychihuahua posted on 18-11-2020 at 17:38:55 (D | E | F)
I'd like to know the answers to the following questions here.
I wrote a song called XXX before.
If I was the other speaker right now, which tense should I use right here?(Or both are acceptable,I'm not sure.)
"What was/is the song about?"
Using is or was,what's the difference?

And there is another question like this.
I wrote a song before.
What was/is it called? Is/was it a good song?
How to use them correctly..

Looking forward to your reply ,thanks!

Edited by lucile83 on 18-11-2020 18:02

Re: Was-is /questions from gerondif, posted on 19-11-2020 at 12:41:47 (D | E)

I wrote a song two years ago. Dated action, souvenir.
Oh really? What was it about?

I have just written a new song.
Oh really? What is it about?

I have already written songs.
How interesting! What were they about?

Re: Was-is /questions from bobonono, posted on 26-11-2020 at 08:30:33 (D | E)
What was the song about?
What is it called? Is it a good song?

Edited by lucile83 on 26-11-2020 08:45

Re: Was-is /questions from mah, posted on 30-11-2020 at 15:34:23 (D | E)
when we talk about something that is important now, at present, we use the present tense.
Here our question depends on the speaker's sentence.
If she(he) talks in the past we ask in the past. And if he talks in the present perfect we use thepresent tense.

For the other question it can be both direct or indirect speech.

Edited by lucile83 on 30-11-2020 16:50

Re: Was-is /questions from hattrick, posted on 01-12-2020 at 12:45:57 (D | E)

Speaker A: I wrote a song called XXX before.
Speaker B: What was the song about? or What is the song about?
Both questions are correct.

What matters here is the 'speaker's point of view', in other words, how speaker B considers the situation.
The notion of 'point of view' is fundamental in English grammar!

Before putting his/her question, if speaker B sort of "recreates" in his/her mind an image of the situation (the writing of the song) in the past, then B's question should be in the past. The time sequence (concordance des temps) is thus respected.
But, if speaker B chooses to focus on the meaning of the song, then B's question can be in the present.

The explanations above can also apply to your second request:
Speaker A: I wrote a song before.
Speaker B: What was it called? Was it a good song? or What is it called? or Is it a good song?

Edited by lucile83 on 01-12-2020 14:49
No French on this forum...

Re: Was-is /questions from mah, posted on 05-12-2020 at 10:47:15 (D | E)
I'm sure that when someone says: "I had a car before."
We never say :" What colour is it?"
When a speaker talks about recent events, he or she should pay attention to the time in the sentences he ( she) uses.
I can use simple past tense for past time ( yesterday for example) or many years ago ( 25 years ago or more) , but it's my intonation in speaking and using the adverb of time in writing ,shows my emphasis.So the listener or reader can make their own questions.I hope it helps.
The best

Re: Was-is /questions from hattrick, posted on 05-12-2020 at 15:24:48 (D | E)
Hi mah,

Everything must be taken into account: not only grammar rules, of course, but also the context, the situation, the meaning of words, the speaker’s viewpoint (i.e. his/her opinion and the way he/she sees… recreates… imagines… things in his/her mind) and what part of his/her speech he/she wishes to emphasize… etc.

Grammar rules do not rule on their own! ;)

A car and a piece of writing (a song or a book) are not things that can be compared. Which one is bound to last longer, for example?

”I had a car before.” seems to imply that the car doesn’t exist any more.
So, ”What colour was it?” is correct.
But, if the speaker adds: ”I sold it to my neighbour.” Unless we ask, we don’t know whether the neighbour still has the car or not. So, ”What colour was it?” or ”What colour is it?” are possible questions.

”I wrote a song before.” doesn’t imply that the song doesn’t exist any more, though I would be tempted to say that it still does. Like lots and lots of writings, songs are things that last. This why I think both tenses, ‘past simple’ and ‘present simple’ are possible and correct, depending on the ”point of view” I choose to have: ”What was / is it called? or ”Was / Is it a good song?”

To try and convince you, look at the following extract from a short-story, The Faithless Wife, by the Irish author Sean O’Faolain:
”Adding it all up […], only one problem had so far defeated him: that he was a foreigner and did not know what sort of women Iris women are.”
So, from the author’s (S. O’Faolain) point of view, do Irish women still exist or not ?


Re: Was-is /questions from mah, posted on 05-12-2020 at 16:00:35 (D | E)
Hi hattrick
Thank you for your attention. I got you. Yes it depends on many things.Todays grammar is not really as important as we think about! The mean, intonation, situation, condition....these are more important. What I mean is not different from yours in general. Yours

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