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  1. #1
    Ryan Guest

    Default Tenses in summarizing a story

    Dear all,

    I came across the following explanation in 'The Elements of Style':

    In summarizing the action of a drama, use the present tense. In summarizing a poem, story, or novel, also use the present, though you may use the past if it seems more natural to do so.... But whichever tense is used in the summary, a past tense in indirect discourse or in indirect question remains unchanged.

    The Friar confesses that it was he who married them. (Example given in the book)

    Could anyone explain
    1. when is it 'seems more natural' to use the past form of verbs when summarizing a story?
    2. what does the last sentence of the paragraph mean?

    Cheers
    Ryan

    :D :D

  2. #2
    RonBee's Avatar
    RonBee is offline Moderator
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  3. #3
    Ryan Guest

    Default Thanks

    Thank you.

    Ryan

  4. #4
    RonBee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan
    Thank you.
    You're welcome. Have you seen the responses? Were they helpful?

    :)

  5. #5
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default

    The present makes the story more alive, so the past is used to create a sense of distance between the stroy and the person describing it. It also depends on the universality of the story- your eample is, I believe, from 'Romeo and Juliet', a play still performed regularly, so I'd be much more likely to use the present. If the play, etc, were old and obscure, I might use the past.

  6. #6
    RonBee's Avatar
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    Fictional characters, unlike real people, never really die, so the present tense is always appropriate.

    :wink:

  7. #7
    Ryan Guest

    Default Re: Thanks

    A bit overwhelmed by all the information, actually. (Every time I come to the word 'discourse' my head spins. I need some time to read and digest them.

    I will continue to follow the discussion.

    Thanks again.

  8. #8
    Ryan Guest

    Default

    What I have understood is this:
    When summarizing a story, we usually use the present tense. But when we report the words of a character, we change the tense to the relevant one, e.g. present to past, past to past perfect.

    Am I right?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan
    What I have understood is this:
    When summarizing a story, we usually use the present tense. But when we report the words of a character, we change the tense to the relevant one, e.g. present to past, past to past perfect.

    Am I right?
    That looks good to me.

    :)

  10. #10
    Ryan Guest

    Default

    Thank you Ronbee & Tdol.

    Ryan

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