Questions tagged [tenses]

This tag should be used for questions about using grammatical tenses in your work, such as questions about the correct usage of tenses or about the effect that certain tenses have on the reader's feelings.

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'This time' vs 'that time' in past tense narrative

I am writing a past-tense personal narrative and I'm having a hard time distinguishing which term would be best in this instance. Quote for context: My parents always told me not to lie because lying ...
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0 votes
1 answer
63 views

Can you switch from past to present tense to expound on an action?

If the text is primarily past tense, can you briefly switch to present tense to expound on an action? An example is as follows. She took one step before the brass bell above her door echoed a sharp ...
1 vote
2 answers
70 views

Is the occasional practical exposition jarring?

I always try to keep exposition to a minimum; whenever there is any backstory or worldbuilding, I let it come out via dialogue. The narration is impersonal; I don't want it to feel like someone's ...
-2 votes
1 answer
87 views

How can I vary the POVs in past tense? [closed]

I'm writing my book in the past tense (even though I hate it, it makes the most sense). I wanted to vary the POVs in the story. Should I scrap the idea, or is there a way to write it without it ...
0 votes
1 answer
67 views

Perfect tense for flashbacks - when can I skip it?

I have a question about tenses. Similar issues have been discussed in other threads, but I have a very specific question. Now, most stories (including the one I'm working on) are written in the past ...
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0 votes
3 answers
121 views

Describing people in a book that is first person

I am writing a novel that is in present tense. I'm worried I'm going back and forth from present to past tense when I describe the physical characteristics of people my main character meets. Here are ...
0 votes
2 answers
77 views

Using past or present tense when writing about an event occurring on that day

I was wondering which of the two sentences are correct: The homework was due today The homework is due today My story is written in past tense, but character X says this in narration during the ...
1 vote
1 answer
53 views

Is it wrong to mix tenses in a sentence when describing actions?

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 '...
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2 votes
2 answers
145 views

Do I write the later chapters of my book in present tense because they happen after the prologue, or in past tense like the chapters before?

I've written my prologue in present tense. The rest of it is a flash to the past that leads up to that moment which I write in past tense. When I get to the current part of the book where the prologue ...
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9 votes
3 answers
1k views

"Lack of [plural]": should accompanying verb be singular or plural?

In this sentence: It’s not our lack of answers to these problems that causes us such pain. My word processor tells me that "causes" should be in the plural form "cause", but I'm ...
17 votes
3 answers
5k views

I thought I understood tenses

I'm writing a story in the past tense, third person, deep POV. Similar to the first person, that implies that some of the narration can be read as the character's thoughts. Here are two trite examples:...
1 vote
1 answer
68 views

Can you use tenses illogically as a stylistic choice?

Can you use tenses illogically as a stylistic choice? This was the seed of your undoing. This mistake will end up killing you. There's a tense mismatch between the first and second sentences. Can ...
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0 votes
3 answers
320 views

Should a summary of an event be in past tense, or present tense like the rest of the writing?

Knowing that I'm writing using the present simple, should I switch to the past simple when summarizing an event that does not need a long description? Or this would be considered as a misuse of tenses?...
3 votes
1 answer
958 views

Should character descriptions be written in past or present tense?

My novel is written in past tense and I'm wondering if the description of my characters should be written in present or in past too, especially if my characters are part of a series and will be ...
1 vote
2 answers
217 views

When to use simple past or present perfect in scientific papers?

What are the best rules for scientific papers to decide whether to put a sentence in simple past or present perfect tense? Example Shapiro et al. (2012) use present perfect in the following sentence: ...
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5 votes
2 answers
2k views

How to write in third person present tense without making it sound awkward?

Generally it is preferred that one use present tense with POV, or at least it sounds organic. Are there any ground rules I can make use of to exploit third person present tense to the fullest without ...
0 votes
2 answers
132 views

Present tense in personal recounts

I'm writing a travel memoir and have come across a dilemma of sorts. Yes, I know that a memoir is usually written in the past tense -- since it happened in the past. But certain facts remain true as I ...
1 vote
1 answer
52 views

Are there rules related to tense used? [closed]

I started my novel in third person, past tense, then I changed it to third person present tense, then I changed it to first person present tense, and now I've changed it to first person past tense. I ...
4 votes
3 answers
346 views

Can the first-person narrator use both past and present tenses?

My first person narrator is telling his story in the past tense but there are present tense realities too that get me confused what tense to use. For instance, here are two paragraphs: When I came ...
0 votes
1 answer
41 views

Avoiding tenses problems

I think I'm facing many problems concerning the use of tense when I write things..so is there any app or website that can check my mistakes and correct them?
1 vote
1 answer
71 views

Do you use past-perfect in narrative to make a reference about a time before the point of narrative? Or is it better to use past simple?

I had a question regarding the use of past perfect tense in a narrative that is in past tense. Is it correct to use the past perfect tense for an event that occurred before the point of narrative? Or ...
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0 votes
1 answer
152 views

Is Third-Person Present Tense Common and Popular in Adult Novels?

I was wondering if third-person present tense was common and popular in adult novels. I know when I'm reading Young Adult novels that this tense is like the norm. I mostly write YA novels so I can ...
0 votes
2 answers
168 views

Past or present tense when describing a well-known method in the description of an experiment?

I am describing an experiment for a scientific paper. In this experiment, I use a very well-known technique which I briefly describe, similar to the following variant (#1): In this experiment, we ...
-1 votes
1 answer
40 views

Past tense or not in a statement about a general idea [closed]

Sometimes, I come across with a problem like this: I don't know if I should use past tense or not in the sentence like below. Nine out of ten adults live a mentally health life. The one who doesn't ...
2 votes
0 answers
133 views

Tense change when referring to how protagonist currently is while he is describing events

I have written a novel that I want to send out to agents, but am now having doubts if it is polished enough to do so yet. A big problem for me right now is tense. My novel is written in past tense, ...
1 vote
1 answer
172 views

What is this writing style called and how can I remove pronouns?

Some background. I am currently in the editing phase of my dissertation and I have no clue what 'tense?'/'personage?'/writing 'style?' I have used. For example consider the sentence, "In this ...
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0 votes
3 answers
208 views

What tense should the dialogues be in a first person singular write-ups?

I am writing my novel in first person singular in the past tense as narrated by the protagonist. So obviously the narrative is in past tense, but I am confused about how to write dialogue, whether it ...
13 votes
3 answers
2k views

Shifting tenses in the middle of narration

I am writing a short story where the narrator is recording a message to his daughter about some tragic event and in between the narration, the narrator sometimes tries to address directly his daughter....
1 vote
3 answers
1k views

What tense to use for events that are still happening?

The question is similar to this but the answers does not answer me. In my general fiction novel, which is told in first person singular past tense, I encounter moments where I am confused whether to ...
6 votes
3 answers
2k views

Past vs. present tense when referring to a fictional character

What would you write when referring to a fictional character in a non-fiction work? e.g. Tom Sawyer is a boy, he has no parents, he goes on adventures or Tom Sawyer was a boy, he had no parents, he ...
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6 votes
4 answers
153 views

In one book can one narrator be in present and the other in past?

I'm currently planning a book series that is told from the first person perspective of 5 different characters. I have a different voice for all of the characters, but I think that 2 of the characters ...
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2 votes
1 answer
229 views

Switching tense and point of view between the chapters [duplicate]

I'm writing a story told mostly in first person point of view in present tense where the narrator alternates between two characters from chapter to chapter. I have gotten some critics about this ...
6 votes
2 answers
253 views

Historical Present in English?

As a historian, I at times get my fingers on Latin texts. Latin has a rather peculiar use of past and present tenses: Usually, texts are written in Imperfect, which is the 'simple past', with things ...
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6 votes
2 answers
162 views

Is it confusing for English speakers to see mixed tenses in narration?

I translate fanfiction stories from Russian into English as a hobby and I'm a bit confused about tenses. In Russian, it's normal to mix past and present tenses in generally past narration, but I ...
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1 vote
2 answers
195 views

Varying POV and tense

My novel is written in the third person. When changing POV between different scenes (or chapters), is it OK if the parts for different POV characters use different tenses: some - the past tense, and ...
3 votes
5 answers
129 views

Should I change from past to present tense to state a fact that continues into the present and is unyielding?

Within narration in past tense, should a statement of a universally true fact be in past tense or in present tense? For example, in the short text: It was late afternoon in Zubrin. The air was ...
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1 vote
2 answers
262 views

Flashforward Tense

I am a new-ish author. I've written a lot of books, but they've never been published. Anyway, for this new book I'm about to write the first scene is a flash-forward to the end of the book. I really ...
-2 votes
2 answers
298 views

How can I avoid repetition of "I", while keeping present tense in first person? [duplicate]

I'm writing a first-person fantasy novel. I can't exactly figure out how to avoid the repetition of "I" when explaining the actions of the character. Any way I have ever seen makes the story seem like ...
5 votes
5 answers
4k views

Are characters' internal thoughts written in past or present tense?

Is there a general rule for past vs. present tense for a character's internal thoughts? Direct thoughts in present, while indirect thoughts in past? I'm thinking specifically of 1st person here. I ...
5 votes
1 answer
57 views

Confusion about scientific writing tenses

I am writing a study for my second academic degree. As usual it has research questions and objectives. My confusion lies in the tenses for these two. The research questions have been answered and the ...
7 votes
4 answers
234 views

Are there any rules to follow about the narrator mixing past and present tense in writing?

I'm editing a short story that's been written in the past tense, however at some points I slip up and use a lot of present tense to describe some scenes. Thing is, it's happened often enough that I've ...
3 votes
1 answer
133 views

Shifting from Past tense to present tense [closed]

I want to make a cartoon video describing my personal experience. Is it okay if I used the past tense to introduce the story first and then shift to the present tense to make it sound more realistic? ...
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5 votes
3 answers
257 views

Can I change tenses in my first person YA novel?

I'm half way through a YA science fiction novel that is told in 1st person, past tense. Currently there are two chapters in different tenses. One is 2nd person, present tense - the p.o.v. of an AI. ...
5 votes
2 answers
218 views

Confusion about usage of present tense vs past tense vs mixed

I am quite new to writing so I hope my question makes any sense. I'm trying to write a first draft of a story that has been haunting me for quite a while. Even though I'm fine with it to fail, I ...
6 votes
3 answers
977 views

A question about Past Participle vs Simple Past in a novel

The novel is in past tense and the character is recounting things that happened before the novel began. Should I be using the past participle? Everything I read says that using the word "had" is a big ...
3 votes
3 answers
2k views

How to avoid slipping into the wrong tense?

In one of the stories I'm writing at the moment, when the narrator is in the scene, the story is in present tense (which is painful, but so far I like the result). The rest is in the much easier to ...
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3 votes
2 answers
1k views

Converting/rewriting present tense narratives to past tense gracefully. Not a question about verb conjugation

I decided a few chapters into a book I'm writing that I dislike present tense, and that I would need to go back and make all instances of present tense past tense to maintain consistency. However, now ...
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1 vote
1 answer
328 views

Issue of tense and breaking the fourth wall/meta

Looking at another thread on tense, I realize that this one of mine may be misconstrued as me asking for help fixing a specific paragraph. Rather than that, I am asking for advice in general on ...
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4 votes
3 answers
175 views

First person plural for charisma?

I've been writing a friendly tutorial series for a small art software community. Somehow I decided to write it in first person plural, so the entire tutorial is "First, let's do this..." and "Now we ...
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2 votes
1 answer
920 views

Moving between a narrator's memories of the past and the "literary present"

The rule is simple in general: use the present tenses when discussing events in literary works. One situation where this gets more complicated is where you have to switch timelines because, for ...
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