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I’m trying to say some colloquial English sentences in French, and I’m stuck on how to express the idea of "who said it was illegal".

X : Mais, accepter une opération illégale... De quoi y réfléchir à deux fois avant de s’y prendre.

Y : Mais, qui a dit que c'était illégal ?

I opted for the past tense instead of the present:

Y : Mais, qui dit que c'est illégal ?

Given the ongoing nature of its illegality, part of me is tempted to use the present tense. After all, they are discussing whether the operation is illegal or not for the present. At the same time, though, I wonder if sticking to the past tense sounds more idiomatic, despite the apparent mismatch of tenses.

  • Both sound correct but the past tense sounds wayyy more idiomatic. – Destal Dec 21 '16 at 15:37
  • Who said it was illegal? vs Who says it is illegal? Can't both be used in English? – Annie CHABOT Dec 23 '16 at 12:54
  • @AnnieCHABOT Yes, absolutely! I was wondering how it would work in French. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Dec 23 '16 at 12:55
  • Who said it was illegal? Who says it is illegal? I think the difference between the two is the same in both languages. – Annie CHABOT Dec 23 '16 at 13:00
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For me both are equally possible. The past tense assumes that the illegality could have been pronounced outside the present conversation, while the present includes current participants to the conversation.

In light of the above, illegality being normally pronounced by some external authority, the past tense could be a better fit. But for other judgements ("immoral", "malsain", "dangereux") the present could make more sense.

  • Pensez-vous que l'une ou l'autre corresponde à l'est-ce vraiment ? Merci ! – user3177 Dec 22 '16 at 19:00

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