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I have been writing high school English paper on a novel in MLA format. Is there any rule about using past participle or past imperfect? Throughout the essay there have been many places that can be changed from past to present, but there are some areas where there seems to be no way to changed to present. This has gone unchanged in revisions by other, meanwhile other verbs have been changed by other people to present tense.
after forty years pass.
This was corrected by a writing teacher (not my own) to "passed". I am wondering if this is correct, and if there are any exceptions to the rule that past tense cannot be used in MLA formatted essays.
After reading your question I did a little search and discovered this:
Use present tense to introduce cited or quoted material and to make
personal comments on such materials. Use past tense only when directly
quoting a passage that is in past tense or when reporting historical
This answers the question of why "pass" was corrected to "passed" since you were speaking about an event that has historically passed. And therefore past tense is what you wanted for that sentence. Same reasoning behind choosing the first sentence in your example comment. That sentence is reporting on something that has already happened.
Please note that, if you are citing a piece of fiction you should always be aware of literary present.