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I was on the phone with someone and I said:

- "I had three questions."

I don't know why I said 'had' instead of 'have' but I think people do say 'had' in this type of context? Please correct me if I'm mistaken. 

Hi, Ashraful—The past tense is sometimes used for its softening effect in interactions. One can analyze such sentences as containing a missing clause that looks at the present from the perspective of the past.

Thus, if you mean "I have three questions" when you say "I had three questions," we can account for the tense by saying that the full sentence goes something like this: "When I called you, I had three questions."

Similarly, when a clerk asks you "What was your name?" rather than "What is your name?," you can account for the use of the past tense by supposing that the full sentence is "What did you say your name was?," which uses backshift.

Last edited by David, Moderator

Thus, if you mean "I have three questions" when you say "I had three questions," we can account for the tense by saying that the full sentence goes something like this: "When I called you, I had three questions."

In my context I said 'I had three questions' but didn't say anything else after that. In your example can 'when I called you' be implied? For example my full sentence would be something like "I had three questions in my mind when I decided to call you."

I want to know if it's possible to say 'I had three questions' without any further explanation?

In my context I said 'I had three questions' but didn't say anything else after that. In your example can 'when I called you' be implied? For example my full sentence would be something like "I had three questions in my mind when I decided to call you."

I want to know if it's possible to say 'I had three questions' without any further explanation?

Yes, it is possible to say "I had three questions" without any explanation. The explanation for the tense will implicitly be provided by the context, assuming you have a contextually sensitive listener who speaks English. Now, before you ask me, "What if there is no context?," let me assure you there is always a context.

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