The prologue of my story is past tense, then the rest will be present tense. I cannot figure how to word a sentence correctly to take out 'now' or to make it sound correct.

Rayanne had found out she was pregnant shortly before she got sick. She was, now, five months pregnant.

The second sentence sounds like present tense, but I need it to sound past tense. Any suggestions?

  • I'm a bit confused about the meaning, probably because it's out of context. She found out at some time in the past (before she got sick), and now (time of narration) she is five months pregnant? Or these two times coincide, meaning that she only found about the pregnancy when she was already five months pregnant (now-time of narration)? And the sickness you mention, is that the 'pregnancy morning sickness' or something other that befell the character at that time?
    – adonies
    Jun 9, 2017 at 7:53
  • I think the sentence reads a lot better if you take out the commas around the word "now." Aside from that, no issue with tenses.
    – sudowoodo
    Jun 9, 2017 at 10:12

5 Answers 5


The trick is to keep everything in past tense except the word now. This is how it's done in published books.

Ancestor by Scott Sigler:

On the screen, a man crawled across the floor, leaving behind him a glistening trail of puss, blood and other fluids Chapman didn't want to think about. The man's once-white lab coat was now wet-pink, clinging to his body like a thin straightjacket.

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson:

The straw figure returned to his window. It carried a large ring of keys. The figure’s straw feet were stained red. The crimson blood seemed so dull to Vasher now.

(Examples chosen for no reason other than I happened to have a PDF on my hard drive for an easy Ctrl+F!)

Seeing how it works?

If you say...

Jeff was six when he first discovered he could play trombone with his feet. He had come a long way since then — he played four nights a week at MacLennan's, now — but life had only gotten harder.

...as your readers, we immediately get that then refers to the past of your story, and now refers to the present of your story. See how everything except the now stays in past tense?

It works because of what's known as free indirect style. Modern readers are completely used to this. We intuitively understand that we're reading the character's inner monologue, so we understand that the now means the 'now' of the story, as the character is thinking it.

  • 2
    In short, the example you've shared is correct. It might be slightly clearer if you move now to the start of the sentence ('Now she was five months pregnant'), but your tenses are perfect!
    – Cakebox
    Jun 20, 2016 at 8:26
  • That "free indirect style" link didn't work for me, anyway. It took me to faculty.washington.edu/cbehler/glossary/freeindsty.html which returned: Not Found The requested resource does not exist on this server. Oct 17, 2020 at 0:04
  • No worries! If you still want to read up, there are lots of other resources on Google. It's variously known as 'free indirect style', 'free indirect speech' and 'free indirect discourse', if that helps.
    – Cakebox
    Jan 12, 2021 at 12:11

I think your sentences are fine. Readers understand that "now" refers to the present in the story's time.


A google search of the definition of the word 'now' should resolve the issue. enter image description here

As you can see, the usage of 'now' in past tense is part of the word's definition.

I hope this finally clarifies the issue.


Novice here.. but what about.

A simple way ( but could be missed by reader.) Make everything present and then push the present again in the last sentence.. Using 'is' and dropping 'had'

Rayanne found out she was pregnant shortly before she got sick. She is five months pregnant.

Another way is to be declarative and obvious. I changed to 6 months for accuracy of the sentence :)

Rayanne found out she was pregnant shortly before she got sick. Six months later she is starting to show.

Ps. I dropped the Now as it doesnt seem a good word to use.

  • 1
    Unfortunately the OP states that they want this sentence to be in the past tense.
    – sudowoodo
    Jun 9, 2017 at 10:10

I don't think the tense is the issue. Nor is there any particular with the use of the word 'now'.

Your language is clunky, passive and suffers the common ailment of abuse of the 'verb' to be.

"Rayanne had found out SHE WAS pregnant shortly before SHE GOT sick. SHE WAS, now, five months pregnant."

There are usage differences between British English and US English but I'm guessing it is better written in the following form:

"Rayanne discovered she was pregnant shortly before she got sick. Now five months pregnant . . ."

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