Learn English – Do we use the present or the past after “when” in a conditional sentence

indirect-speechpast-tensepresent-tense

He said we would get married when we get older.

or

He said we would get married when we got older.

Which tense of the verb get should be used?

Best Answer

Both are grammatical and mean ALMOST the same thing. The difference is that the second tends to convey the implication that plans have changed and what he said is no longer true – one can almost hear a "but" following the sentence.

He said we would get married when we get older.

Last night Billy told me we'd get married in a couple of years, when I'm 18.

He said we would get married when we got older.

Billy promised me that we'd get married when I turned 18, but then he ran off with that waitress.

Or you can take a slightly different point of view and read the first sentence as reporting what Billy said last night, while the second is reporting what Billy said 3 years ago – essentially the present (as near as one can report) vs the past.

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