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  1. #1
    cubezero3's Avatar
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    Default Can one use present tenses to refer to past events in conversations?

    Hello, everyone.

    I am always very concerned with my usage of English tenses. I read all threads in this section of the forum every day. If I don't have enough time, I would first look for those concerning tenses.

    A few weeks ago, I met a new friend, a young Austrilian person. We have hanged out a lot recently. I have, on many occasions, heard him tell me his stories in the present tenses. Yesterday, I read part of the novel he's writing at the moment and found that he is quite careful with tenses.

    I'd like to know if there are other native speakers who, occasionally and in daily conversation, don't bother choosing between the present and past tenses.

    Many thanks

    Richard
    Last edited by cubezero3; 11-Aug-2011 at 18:57.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Can one use present tenses to refer to past events in conversations?

    It's quite common in informal conversation. People who like to consider themselves 'educated' tend not to do it so much.

  3. #3
    SoothingDave is online now VIP Member
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    Default Re: Can one use present tenses to refer to past events in conversations?

    You have hung out a lot recently. "Hanged" is typically only used for the past tense of hanging by the neck until dead.

  4. #4
    cubezero3's Avatar
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    Default Re: Can one use present tenses to refer to past events in conversations?

    5jj, thanks for you reply.

    During some part of my conversation, I felt quite uncomfortable and thought I was being a pompous, showy and pedantic language learner who was somewhat desperate to demonstrate I can do better than a native speaker. Perhaps he didn't even notice it and it's only me. I don't know. That exactly whyI asked this question here.

    Would it be a good idea to follow other people's ways of using English language, in order to be polite or not to annoy people? For example, when I hear some one uses present tenses to refer to past events, should I all of a sudden start doing the same thing as well?

    Many thanks

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can one use present tenses to refer to past events in conversations?

    It's not at all uncommon to switch to the present tense when telling a story to make it more vivid. I can't agree with 5jj (which is a pretty rare thing, actually) that educated people avoid it, though I did note he used quote marks, so maybe he was being ironic.

    You will hear people swtich back and forth.

    So I'm standing there, soaking wet, and he says "But it's not raining!" and I say "For God's sake, look at me! I may be sweaty, but my hat is soaking wet too!" and then he goes outside and looks, and sure enough, there is exactly one cloud in the entire sky, and it's right over where we had been hiking. So he laughed and gave me directions and says he hopes we dry off soon.

    You should not emulate them unless it becomes your natural way to tell a story. If you feel more comfortable staying entirely in the past tense, do so. If it feels natural to switch to the present tense, do so.
    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.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Can one use present tenses to refer to past events in conversations?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    I can't agree with 5jj (which is a pretty rare thing, actually) that educated people avoid it, though I did note he used quote marks, so maybe he was being ironic.
    Not just quote marks, but also: People who like to consider themselves
    'educated' ... .

    However, irony aside, I do think that BrE RP speakers of 50 or over who were in formal education until at least the age of eighteen do this far less commonly than younger people and speakers of other dialects.

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