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Thread: Past/present

  1. #1
    nichyd01 is offline Newbie
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    Default Past/Present Tense

    Please help me to understand how to correctly use past and prensent tenses when writing fiction.
    "The cat ran to the house." Dana said. or should it be Dana says? I was told to write in the present tense. Even when you refer to an event in the past.

  2. #2
    Jay Louise's Avatar
    Jay Louise is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Past/Present Tense

    Quote Originally Posted by nichyd01 View Post
    Please help me to understand how to correctly use past and prensent tenses when writing fiction.
    "The cat ran to the house." Dana said. or should it be Dana says? I was told to write in the present tense. Even when you refer to an event in the past.


    I would dare ask whoever told you this to show you a single example of this being done in print. I imagine someone could do it, I've just never seen it done.

    [Random dialog from a nearby book]
    "Is he sleeping again?" the Highlander pressed, anxious now.
    "Yes."
    "And him?" Morgan pointed into the mists.
    "He rests still," Quickening answered unexpectedly.
    "We have to hurry," he said at once, starting away again.

    I believe in plays the stage directions are in present tense, but then they never use "said/says"

    Actor 1: "This is the first line I've ever said onstage!"
    Actor 2: "Me too!"

    Actor 2 begins to skip and dance. He trips and breaks his leg.

  3. #3
    nichyd01 is offline Newbie
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    Default Past/present

    Please help me to understand how to correctly use past and present tenses when writing fiction.
    "The cat ran to the house." Dana said. or should it be Dana says? I was told to write in the present tense. Even when you refer to an event in the past.

  4. #4
    its_vix is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Past/present

    It surely depends on when Dana said the phrase.

    If both actions are past, then it would be
    "The cat ran to the house." Dana said

    However, if you are saying that Dana is speaking NOW... at the present moment it would be "The cat ran to the house." Dana says.

    hope that helps... I'll be interested to see what others say

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Past/present

    Present tenses are sometimes used in fiction, and in informal conversation and jokes, when we would normally expect past tenses. The writer/speaker is attempting to make the situation more vivid.

    I might, for example, say to a colleague tomorrow:

    So, I'm reading the questions on UsingEnglish and I suddenly see this question from nichyd01 about tenses.'Right,' I say to myself, 'I can help this chap.'

    Both the listener and I know that I am talking about a past-time situation.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Past/present

    I've just noticed. You asked this question less than an hour ago. Please don't post the same question more than once

  7. #7
    Pokemon is offline Member
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    Default Re: Past/present

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    Present tenses are sometimes used in fiction, and in informal conversation and jokes, when we would normally expect past tenses. The writer/speaker is attempting to make the situation more vivid.

    I might, for example, say to a colleague tomorrow:

    So, I'm reading the questions on UsingEnglish and I suddenly see this question from nichyd01 about tenses.'Right,' I say to myself, 'I can help this chap.'

    Both the listener and I know that I am talking about a past-time situation.
    This type of Present Simple even has a name: historic or dramatic Present.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Past/present

    I have merged your two threads.
    I'm not a teacher, but I write for a living. Please don't ask me about 2nd conditionals, but I'm a safe bet for what reads well in (American) English.

  9. #9
    nichyd01 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Past/Present Tense

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Louise View Post


    I would dare ask whoever told you this to show you a single example of this being done in print. I imagine someone could do it, I've just never seen it done.

    [Random dialog from a nearby book]
    "Is he sleeping again?" the Highlander pressed, anxious now.
    "Yes."
    "And him?" Morgan pointed into the mists.
    "He rests still," Quickening answered unexpectedly.
    "We have to hurry," he said at once, starting away again.

    I believe in plays the stage directions are in present tense, but then they never use "said/says"

    Actor 1: "This is the first line I've ever said onstage!"
    Actor 2: "Me too!"

    Actor 2 begins to skip and dance. He trips and breaks his leg.
    Thank you very much for your quick reply.

  10. #10
    nichyd01 is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Past/present

    Quote Originally Posted by its_vix View Post
    It surely depends on when Dana said the phrase.

    If both actions are past, then it would be
    "The cat ran to the house." Dana said

    However, if you are saying that Dana is speaking NOW... at the present moment it would be "The cat ran to the house." Dana says.

    hope that helps... I'll be interested to see what others say
    Thank you very much. It truly does help.

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