I tend to mix tenses in my writing and I'm not sure whether this usage is "correct."

For example, the sentence:

She shook her head, laughing at my mistake.

The way I see it, the word 'laughing' is in present tense because it's happening while she's shaking her head. Versus:

She shook her head and laughed at my mistake.

To me, this line has two different actions, one after the other, the woman only laughs after shaking her head. It also doesn't feel as immediate as the first example.

Would both usages be correct, or should the sentence stick to one tense no matter what?


1 Answer 1


If you’re writing in the present tense then the correct form of the sentence would be

She shakes her head, laughing at my mistake.

It is not uncommon for people to mix tenses as you have; there’s is an implicit preposition “while”

She shook her head, (while) laughing at my mistake.

This preposition adjusts the second clause temporally to agree with the first.

Overall, it is a matter of choice and style. IMO, such constructions can be confusing for me…

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