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Thread: Past / Present

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    Default Past / Present

    Scenario: I'm talking about a movie.

    1. The movie talks about firefighers and this guy in this movie is stuck inside this building with a fire. The floor collapsed and he fell down there and now he is down there and his whole life flashes back at him. Showing how his past life was, his best friend died, co-worker got injured, and now it's his turn to die. (Is this okay? I don't have to use all present tense when telling a story right? I need to use past and present to show the transition in time?)

    This is not okay right:
    2 . The movie talks about firefighers and this guy in this movie is stuck inside this building with a fire. The floor collapses and he falls down there and now he is down there and his whole life flashes back at him. Showing how his past life is, his best friend dies, co-worker gets injured, and now it's his turn to die. (It is not okay to use all present tense?)
    Thanks.
    Last edited by jack; 12-Mar-2005 at 04:34.

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    Default Re: Past / Present

    You've got the idea reversed, Jack. It is preferred to narrate without mixing the tenses. You should choose either one (present for immediacy, past for the traditional narrative). In real speech, an excited narrator will of course mix tenses, but it is not intentional, and it is not good style.

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    Default Re: Past / Present

    So this is perfectly fine?

    1. The movie talks about firefighers and this guy in this movie is stuck inside this building with a fire. The floor collapses and he falls down there and now he is down there and his whole life flashes back at him. Showing how his past life is, his best friend dies, co-worker gets injured, and now it's his turn to die. (I can use 'dies' ?

    In real speech, an excited narrator will of course mix tenses, but it is not intentional, and it is not good style.
    Why is that? Even excited story tellers would do that? So would it be odd for me to not to mix then? For essays and for story writing, it is best to not mix tenses right? Do you have some links where can I read about this?

    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handou.../g_tensec.html
    A dragonfly rests on a branch overhanging a small stream this July morning. It is newly emerged from brown nymphal skin. As a nymph, it crept over the rocks of the stream bottom, feeding first on protozoa and mites, then, as it grew larger, on the young of other aquatic insects. Now an adult, it will feed on flying insects and eventually will mate. The mature dragonfly is completely transformed from the drab creature that once blended with underwater sticks and leaves. Its head, thorax, and abdomen glitter; its wings are iridescent in the sunlight. (adapted from an article in the magazine Wilderness)
    This writer uses the present tense to describe the appearance of a dragonfly on a particular July morning. However, both past and future tenses are called for when she refers to its previous actions and to its predictable activity in the future.

    The above paragraph is okay? But #1 is not? I can't use tenses like that in #1 to show previous actions?

    http://www.compfused.com/directlink/680/
    While teaching kids gun safety and stating he is the only one professional enough to handle the gun a DEA officer manages to shoot himself in the leg. He then just asks if everybody is ok and goes on with the demonstration like nothing happened
    For the paragraph above, I have 'nothing happened' and that is in the past tense, that's okay? But in #1 it's not okay to mix?


    Thanks
    Last edited by jack; 13-Mar-2005 at 06:34.

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    Default Re: Past / Present

    No change of tenses in your firefighter story, Jack, because there is no shift into relative past and future-- you are just telling the story step by step, chronologically as it happened.

    As long as you are creating a simple chronology, each event following the other in the original and in the report, you should stay in the same tense.

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    Default Re: Past / Present

    Thanks.

    What about this one:

    http://www.compfused.com/directlink/680/
    While teaching kids gun safety and stating he is the only one professional enough to handle the gun a DEA officer manages to shoot himself in the leg. He then just asks if everybody is ok and goes on with the demonstration like nothing happened.
    For the paragraph above, I have 'nothing happened' and that is in the past tense, that's okay? Should it be 'nothing happens' ? If not, why?

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    Default Re: Past / Present

    Jack, I don't believe you are thinking too deeply about these. 'Happened' because the narrator is referring to the relative past: 'he goes on... as if nothing happened [before the rest of the demonstration]'.

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    Default Re: Past / Present

    Do you have some links where can I read about this? Or some books that you recommend?

    Thanks.

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    Default Re: Past / Present

    I thought that was a pretty good site you had in your earlier post, Jack-- PURDUE

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    Default Re: Past / Present

    Yes but I want to read more about tense shifting.

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    Default Re: Past / Present

    Tense-shifting? In reported speech? That is not what we have been talking about here, but if you google 'reported speech' or 'indirect speech', you will get a number of websites describing it, for instance THIS ONE.

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