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.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
13
votes
3answers
1k 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....
12
votes
6answers
2k views

Can I switch from past tense to present tense in an epilogue?

I have written my entire novel thus far in past tense. However, I feel like my final chapter/epilogue would work better in present tense. I want to give the reader the sense that everything s/he has ...
12
votes
5answers
2k views

Do modern readers believe the first person narrator can't die?

Back in highschool in the 90s we had an assignment to write an extra chapter for a book. After some discussion the teacher told us that under no circumstances can we kill the protagonist as the book ...
10
votes
5answers
3k views

Third-person objective in action scene

I'm telling a story in third-person objective, the first part being basically an objective description of events around a certain character. I got to a brief action scene, and it fell flat. What the ...
9
votes
3answers
6k views

Use of past vs. present tense in works of fiction

I have recently picked up several works of fiction and begun to read them. I have found that some are written using past tense while others use the present tense. What is the significance of using ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

Switching between past tense and historical present tense

When is it appropriate to switch between past tense and historical present tense when telling a story in first person? Should we try to keep the same tense throughout, or can narration be in ...
8
votes
3answers
3k views

Switching from past to present tense?

I'm thinking of writing a novel where my character narrates flashbacks through the hardest times of his life written in past tense, leading up to the present tense. I was considering switching to ...
8
votes
3answers
5k views

Should a long flashback be written in first or third person?

In my novel there will be a chapter-length flashback as one character relates a story from his past. The rest of the novel is written in limited third-person, seeing into one person's mind at a time. ...
8
votes
2answers
8k views

Should a flashback be in past tense or past perfect?

Assuming the story itself is in past tense, normally when I go further into the past I'd use past perfect: He had first met her at the grocery store, six months prior. However, which is more correct ...
8
votes
7answers
15k views

Software for determining verb tense

When I write fiction, or even technical reports, I have a very difficult time catching myself unintentionally switching verb tenses. Does software exist that highlights verb tense (either by colour-...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Should blog posts be reformatted to past tense after an event?

A writer is doing blog coverage of an event which is time sensitive (happens annually). The writer uses present tense for the coverage posts. Should the writer go back and reformat the old posts to ...
7
votes
8answers
43k views

Which tense to use when writing a diary?

For writing diary content every day, which English tense is appropriate to use? Things have all happened already. I usually write late at night (end of the day) or the next day. Should I use ...
7
votes
4answers
140 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
309 views

How can I improve my grammar?

I feel like I have learned everything I know about Grammar by osmosis. I don't remember learning any of the technicalities of Grammar when I was at school and it has always been a weak area. I think ...
6
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
6
votes
4answers
1k views

Proper use of the “historical present tense”

I am thinking of employing the historical present tense in a first-person narrative (to achieve a greater level of immediacy). The problem is that I am telling the story in a non-linear manner, i.e. ...
6
votes
2answers
4k views

Present tense in user manuals

I am writing a user manual for an IT system. And inside the user manual I have sentences such as: Users can delete Servers that do not have Customers assigned to them. Is the use of present-...
6
votes
2answers
150 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 ...
6
votes
3answers
683 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
8k views

Tense of Literary Essay

When writing a literary essay in English what tense should be used: Past as in: Gatsby’s parties were ostentatious and exquisite Or present as in: Gatsby’s parties are ostentatious and ...
6
votes
4answers
127 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
178 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Pros ans cons of writing a plot based on the present and past tense (character's point of view)?

I'm not sure if I should write my first book in the present or past tense. The book is about a doctor in a clinic who is analysing his patients. e.g. I said, VS I say. I thought for a while VS I ...
5
votes
3answers
148 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
3k views

Use of present-tense for memory-related shenanigans in a past-tense story

I'm writing a story in past tense, in first person. The character is discussing the vagaries of his memory of events in the further past. "I remembered" seems to have the wrong connotation here - he ...
5
votes
2answers
420 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 ...
5
votes
4answers
11k views

Past tense writing troubles. Specifically the word “Now”

I want to say: "Now I was on the plane with my best friend." But don't "Now" and "was" contradict each other? And I specifically want to phrase it this way because earlier on in my book I wrote: "I ...
5
votes
3answers
181 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
1answer
1k views

Past perfect in past tense narrative: When to use and when not to?

I always get confused about whether to use past perfect in past tense narrative. Example: I went back home that weekend to help Mom with our dog's burial. Since we had postponed it, she'd had to ...
5
votes
2answers
137 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 ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

What tense do I use when talking about a character that has died?

When analysing a book and speaking of a character that dies, do you still you present tense as you are still analysing a book? If I were to make up a quick example: "Despite Anna's death, the plot ...
5
votes
1answer
44 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 ...
4
votes
6answers
12k views

How to deal with things that still exist when writing in past tense?

Say I write this: I lived near Les Gobelins, which was a beautiful intersection full of trees. Should it be this? I lived near Les Gobelins, which is a beautiful intersection full of trees. ...
4
votes
2answers
150 views

Present tense or Future tense (When writing articles or technical guides)

Should we use present tense or future tense when writing an article? I know this question will be off topic if I asked without example. So I will add an example: You should use a very clean font ...
4
votes
3answers
72 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
881 views

Past tense vs present tense

I’m writing a short story. I am using the past tense, but I have sections where I describe people and places that are supposed to still be in existence. Should I continue to refer to them in the ...
4
votes
1answer
243 views

What tense to use in an academic paper when speaking about correspondence?

What is the correct tense to use in an academic paper when speaking about correspondence? Say one of my source materials is a letter written by someone named William, in which he says he went to the ...
3
votes
4answers
10k views

Writing dialogue, present or past tense “said”

This may seem like an off-topic question, but it's really more about writing than about the grammar. I use a lot of dialogue in my writing, sometimes too much, but while I'm writing it, though the ...
3
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
865 views

When to keep the passive voice and when to remove it

This is something I wrote: The person was standing in the middle of the clearing, facing away from me. It was a girl. She was wearing a red knit hat, a white sweater, an a gray plaid skirt that ...
3
votes
4answers
3k views

Which tense should I use when writing a post about a journey?

What tense could I use when I write about a journey? Suppose if I write about a train journey and describe the countryside, would using a present tense create a deeper impact to the reader? I could ...
3
votes
5answers
86 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 ...
3
votes
4answers
1k 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 ...
3
votes
1answer
89 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? ...
3
votes
2answers
5k views

present tense fiction - examples of it done well and common pitfalls

I've recently started trying my hand at some fiction writing for the first time. Already I reckon there are a lot of people out there that would say that I shouldn't be thinking about present tense if ...
2
votes
4answers
2k views

Is there a complete guideline for which tense to use?

There are questions here about specific use of tenses, but I wonder if there is a more complete guide on what tense to use when? For a fictional novel, Past Tense is the accepted choice. But which ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Use of past tense in a book about the future

I'm writing a sci-fi novella about a scientist named Steves living in the 24th century. I'm mostly using the typical past tense to narrate the incidents happening to the protagonist. Whenever I'm ...
2
votes
5answers
2k views

Use of 'Now' in past tense

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 ...
2
votes
3answers
329 views

Is it correct to write “should/could/must be” in past tense narrative?

Example in my own writing: Kazumi didn't reply to her boyfriend---or rather ex-boyfriend's---message. Instead, she stayed at Burger King, reanalyzing Kouta's abandonment over a coffee. No, ...
2
votes
2answers
880 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 ...