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I'm writing a story in present tense. One sentence is a little tricky for me, and I don't know if I should use past or present tense:

Present tense

The tree was so massive, that it even withholds the strongest storms.

Past tense

The tree was so massive, that it even withheld the strongest storms.

I am not quite sure because it is a fact that could still last today, but the whole story is written in past tense.

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    You said "I'm writing a story in present tense" and then, at the end, "the whole story is written in past tense". Which is it? Thanks. – Monica Cellio Oct 21 '14 at 14:00
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First of all, "withheld" means "held something back from," as in "she withheld the cookies from her child" or "he withheld the information from Congress." So it doesn't mean "hold up to" a big storm. The word you want is "survive."

Second, Alex almost has it right in his second example. You have a few options in the past tense:

The tree was so massive it could have survived the strongest storm. ("The strongest storm" has happened, but we don't know whether the tree was exposed to it. If it was, then clearly it survived.)

The tree was so massive it could survive the strongest storm. (Hypothetical: "The strongest storm" hasn't happened. We project that the tree could survive it.)

In present tense:

The tree is so massive it could survive the strongest storm. (Hypothetical again. Even if we are in the present, the strongest storm is in the future.)

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    The word OP seems to want is withstand / withstood. – dmm Oct 22 '14 at 18:03
  • @dmm That was on the tip of my tongue yesterday and I could not think of it. thank you! – Lauren Ipsum Oct 22 '14 at 18:29
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Your sentences aren't in the present tense. This would be present tense:

The tree is so massive it even withheld the strongest storm.

Now, regarding your past-tense sentences:

The tree was so massive it even withheld the strongest storm. (Not lasting fact)

The tree was so massive it could have withhold the strongest storm. (Lasting fact)

So yes, lasting facts should be written in the present tense (aside of few exceptions).

  • Thanks for your help! Isn't the second part of the first sentence present tense: that it even withholds the strongest storms – Carina Gunnarsson Oct 21 '14 at 12:10
  • @Carina Gunnarsson Oh yeah, that part is present tense. – Alexandro Chen Oct 21 '14 at 12:33
  • 'could have withhold' should probably be 'could have withheld', grammatically – user16583 Oct 21 '14 at 15:24

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