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Thread: Past / Present

  1. Steven D's Avatar

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    #11

    Re: Past / Present

    Quote Originally Posted by jack
    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.

    (Is this okay? I don't have to use all present tense when telling a story right? <<<<

    That's correct.

    I need to use past and present to show the transition in time?) <<<<

    That's correct. If there is a real time transition, it's better to show it by switching tenses. However, we should look at each segment separately. I've done that to some extent below.


    In reality people mix tenses when narrating. Most of the time people don't even know that they're doing it. We could say it's done for effect, emphasis, and to draw the listener in more. I would not speak this way with low level students who are learning how to use the past tense. However, this question has come up before with advanced students. The reality is that when we listen to people narrate in English, using the present when referring to the past is something of a notable occurrence. Your first paragraph sounds conversational to me. When I listen to radio talk shows, I sometimes hear people narrate in this manner as well. I wouldn't say there is anything wrong with it. I've been told that this happens in other languages as well.

    With the following sentence, I think it's better to change tenses.

    Showing how his past life was, his best friend died, co-worker got injured, and now it's his turn to die.
    _____________________________________________


    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?) <<<<

    I think it's better to make "is, dies, and gets" past tense.

    However, if we change it around a little, I think the present sounds okay for a narrative.

    It tells about his past life. His best friend dies, his co-worker is seriously injured, and now it's his turn to die.

    _____________________________________

    Suggestion:

    For writing -and even speaking - , I think it's better to use two sentences here. I think it's a better transition if you're going to mix past with present in this way.

    The floor collapsed and he fell down there. So now he is down there and his whole life flashes back at him.

    ____________________________________

    This is an interesting question. I wouldn't bring it up voluntarily. I would talk about it if someone asked about it. I might bring it up when speaking to someone with an extremely high degree of proficiency in EFL/ESL. This really has the potential to confuse even advanced students. Even at advanced levels of fluency, some students forget to use the past. Some languages don't have a past tense. Time adverbs and context are used to show past and present time in some languages.
    Last edited by Steven D; 14-Mar-2005 at 06:54.


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    #12

    Re: Past / Present

    Thanks for the great explanation.

    One more thing, let's say I'm talking about a movie in present tense, how do I know when it is necessary to use past tense? Could you give me some tips on that or some websites which can give me some more in-depth knowldege about it? Or some books that you recommend?


    This duck walks into a bar and asks the bartender, "Do you have any grapes?"
    The bartender says no, and the duck leaves.

    The next day, the duck returns and asks, "Do you have any grapes?" The bartender again says no, and the duck leaves.

    Two days later the duck returns walks up to the bar and asks the bartender, "Do you have any grapes?"

    The bartender, losing his patience, screams at the duck, "I told you duck, I don't have any grapes and if you ask me again I will nail your feet to the floor!!"

    The duck looked startled and leaves.

    Two days later the duck returns walks up to the bar and asks the bartender, "Do you have any nails?"

    The bartender replied, "No," and the duck said, "Good! Got any grapes?"
    For the joke above, is 'looked' supposed to be 'looks'? If not, why?


    Thanks again.
    Last edited by jack; 14-Mar-2005 at 02:15.

  2. Steven D's Avatar

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    #13

    Re: Past / Present

    One more thing, let's say I'm talking about a movie in present tense, how do I know when it is necessary to use past tense? Could you give me some tips on that or some websites which can give me some more in-depth knowldege about it? Or some books that you recommend?

    That's hard to say. I guess it really depends on the speaker and the story. I'd say it's rather subjective to some extent. I would say this. If one is using the present to refer to the past when narrating, I think that switching to the past closer to the end of the story is something that is usual. Using the present to refer to the past heightens the suspense I think. Therefore, switching to the past would be an indication of resolution. Story telling is cadential. There are ups and downs, with the "downs" indicating finality. Somethin' like that anyway.......
    Last edited by Steven D; 14-Mar-2005 at 06:50.

  3. Steven D's Avatar

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    #14

    Re: Past / Present

    Thanks for the great explanation.

    You're welcome.

    I kind of like myself too. I might save it and use it if the question ever comes up somewhere other than computer land. It has, but will it again? That's the question. I mean - like - that's really the question. It is such a question.


    Want some popcorn?


  4. Steven D's Avatar

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    #15

    Re: Past / Present

    Quote:

    This duck walks into a bar and asks the bartender, "Do you have any grapes?"
    The bartender says no, and the duck leaves.

    The next day, the duck returns and asks, "Do you have any grapes?" The bartender again says no, and the duck leaves.

    Two days later the duck returns walks up to the bar and asks the bartender, "Do you have any grapes?"

    The bartender, losing his patience, screams at the duck, "I told you duck, I don't have any grapes and if you ask me again I will nail your feet to the floor!!"

    The duck looked startled and leaves.

    Two days later the duck returns walks up to the bar and asks the bartender, "Do you have any nails?"

    The bartender replied, "No," and the duck said, "Good! Got any grapes?"



    For the joke above, is 'looked' supposed to be 'looks'? If not, why?


    Well well well........ That's a good question. Yeh, it sure is. If you ask me - and you are I take it .....he he he.... - I would say that the sentence should be written or spoken as follows:

    The duck looks startled and leaves.

    or: The duck looked startled and left. - At that point, it might be good to use the past in order to lower the level of suspense. It would be good to allow the story to resolve in some way.

    I would change this sentence: The bartender replied, "No," and the duck said, "Good! Got any grapes?"

    The bartender says, "No," so the duck says, "Good! Got any grapes?" - Here, we can use the present I think. It's good to end on a high note sometimes. It makes an impression. You know, kind of like going out with a bang.

    I think the rewrite is more like authentic, informal, conversational discourse. Using "replied" gives the story somewhat of a formal tone. Ya know what I mean, Jack?

    Here, have some more popcorn. It's really good.



  5. Steven D's Avatar

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    #16

    Re: Past / Present

    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Micawber
    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.
    Jack didn't ask about reported speech. He asked about tense-shifting.

    Sometimes the tense doesn't even change with reported speech. This can be heard on the news now and then - no tense-shifting with reported speech.

    Would you like some popcorn?

    Last edited by Steven D; 14-Mar-2005 at 06:42.

  6. Steven D's Avatar

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    #17

    Re: Past / Present

    Quote Originally Posted by jack
    Thanks for the great explanation.

    One more thing, let's say I'm talking about a movie in present tense, how do I know when it is necessary to use past tense? Could you give me some tips on that or some websites which can give me some more in-depth knowldege about it? Or some books that you recommend?



    For the joke above, is 'looked' supposed to be 'looks'? If not, why?


    Thanks again.

    Here's a lesson that deals with the narrative present from One Stop English. I haven't read it yet, but it seems worth checking out. I've saved it.

    http://www.onestopenglish.com/english_grammar/vocabulary_efl/humour_up_wtn.pdf


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    #18

    Re: Past / Present

    Thanks X-Mode. You have some great popcorn there.

  7. Steven D's Avatar

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    #19

    Re: Past / Present

    Quote Originally Posted by jack
    Thanks X-Mode. You have some great popcorn there.

    You're welcome.


  8. Steven D's Avatar

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    #20

    Re: Past / Present

    Quote Originally Posted by jack
    Thanks X-Mode. You have some great popcorn there.

    Thank you. Enjoy the popcorn. It's the butter that makes it good.

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