There seem to be a lot of questions about "Can I have more than one tense in a sentence?" (e.g. I ordered a product on saturday and it has been delivered as well)

I'm wondering if there's any particular reason for this, and if maybe we should have a canonical post for it.

Do other languages not let you do this? (I'm pretty sure this is not generally the case. In all of the languages I have direct experience with, you can do it. Not sure about languages like Mandarin, which don't really have tenses like English does.)
Is there some specific piece of guidance, a book or a website or something, out there which gives the impression you can't?
Are there just a lot of crappy teachers of English out there?

  • 1
    My guess would be that tense and aspect are difficult to separate in English. I don't know enough about other languages to know whether they have similar issues. I believe a lot of English instruction talks about the timing of events and whether they have been completed or not, and that's confusing to a lot of learners.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 21, 2022 at 19:38
  • I'd be happy to make a canonical post on this, but let's see about other people's opinion first
    – DialFrost
    Jul 22, 2022 at 2:10
  • I get the sense that students are being told "you can only use one tense per sentence" when the teacher probably meant to say something like "you can only use one TAM per clause." As for why teachers feel the need to explain the latter in the first place, I suspect it has to do with some languages not having tense (or TAM) in the same way that English does (e.g. Mandarin Chinese), so the teacher is trying to answer "what is this tense thing, anyway?"
    – Kevin
    Jul 26, 2022 at 15:54
  • Just seen this one, not spanking new, but still recent ell.stackexchange.com/questions/317920/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 28, 2022 at 8:37

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure if this should be a canonical post, let's see other's opinion on it first! I would be happy to help though! The canonical post might look like the following:

  1. Rules & Exceptions of tense mixing in a sentence

  2. Pros and cons

  3. Types???

  • 2
    One obvious thing in the examples is that they are actually two independent sentences connected with "and". There's no reason to think that such things should have the same tense. How could one say "I am 5 years old and I will be 6 next week" without mixing tenses? Sep 22, 2022 at 14:20
  • @RayButterworth I’m still only five years old but I'm to turn six next week. I’m at home all morning but I’m off to the capital this evening. What I’m saying is that til I was six my mother would always drive me to school two blocks away before she’d drive downtown for work but now I ride my bike there unless I’m running at the track meet that afternoon and she picks me up on her way home.
    – tchrist
    Jun 10, 2023 at 15:36
  • A canonical post about those topics would be too broad to be helpful, considering the site is for English learners.
    – apaderno
    Dec 31, 2023 at 12:08

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