The sentences below both sound natural to me, but I can't understand why one usesis and the other was.  Can someone please explain this to me

thank you.

1. I wouldn't say he is clever.

2.I wouldn't say he was clever

Original Post

As far as I'm concerned, we use the phrase "I wouldn't say sth/sb IS + adjective" when we want to slightly disagree with someone's opinion or description.

 

And I would think that phrase is part of a conditional sentence, i.e. the whole sentence might be:

If you asked (me) for my opinion, I wouldn't say he is clever. 

Last edited by Hussein Hassan

I hesitate between tenses in this sense as well and I agree with the above response. “I wouldn’t say he is clever” sounds proper to me. He is clever..is something you wouldn’t say. Hope this helped!

Mrchuffie posted:

The sentences below both sound natural to me, but I can't understand why one usesis and the other was.  Can someone please explain this to me

1. I wouldn't say he is clever.
2.I wouldn't say he was clever

"Is" refers to the present, and "was" to the past. If you mean to refer to a lasting characteristic (non-cleverness) of a living person, use "I wouldn't say he is clever." If you mean to refer to a characteristic that was possessed by a person who is no longer living, use "I wouldn't say he was clever."

You can also use "I wouldn't say he was clever" if you are talking about a characteristic that he manifested during a circumscribed period of time in the past, say, while he was at a party where you observed him and were able to form an opinion as to his cleverness or lack thereof.

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