Creo que él lo hizo.
If I wanted to say the opposite in the simplest and most precise way posible it seems I have a few obvious options:
- No creo que él lo haga.
- No creía/creí que él lo hiciera
- No creo que él lo haya hecho.
- No creía/creí que él lo hubiera hecho.
These all seem solidly grammatically correct. But in my mind none of those are actually precise. They all change the meaning and a reverse translation does not (in my mind) give the original.
What I want to say is that the belief is right now and I want to keep the present tense in the independent clause. I want to use the required subjunctive and I want to indicate that the dependent clause was in the past but does not continue to the present. So I say:
- No creo que él lo hiciera.
Native speakers always seem to understand me, I don't get corrected, I've seen a few (very non-authoritative) "real world" uses:
(interested in the headline nothing more)
And there's even this which a few other sites seems to copy verbatim: http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/100058/imperfect-subjunctive#.VzaOG5HhDIU
Use Number 2.
However, the spanishdict "Reference Article" has various errors, most other explanations of uses of the Imperfect Subjunctive do not cover this usage and I have seen other posts here on StackExchange which seem to imply that this would be incorrect. I have looked in the RAE for guidance but cannot seem to find what I am looking for.
I like the precision and clarity of understanding in option 5, should I keep using it or is its usage on shaky/incorrect ground and I should forget about it before it becomes a bad habit?