Simple present or simple future

Simple present or simple future

Postby Léopold on Fri May 08, 2015 12:10 pm

Dear Prof,

I today heard on TV an English politician say after his victory: 'I will make sure I do not let you down.'

I wonder why he used the simple present in the subordinate clause 'I do not let you down' instead of the simple future to say: 'I will make sure I will not let you down.'

Does 'I do not let you down' mean 'I do not betray you' or 'I do not disappoint you.'?

Thank you.

Re: Simple present or simple future

Postby prof on Tue May 12, 2015 1:42 am

If you 'let someone down' you disappoint them, rather than betray them. In fact you might expect someone to betray you. If that person does so, he has not let you down, because you expected it and so are not disappointed in him.

In the statement 'I will make sure that I do not let you down' the speaker does not use the future in the second clause, firstly because he has used it already in the first part ('I will make sure'), so the future tense is understood. He is also talking about any time in the future rather than a particular time in the future. For this more general meaning a present tense (always true) meaning is more appropriate.
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