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  1. #1
    InvisibleSocks is offline Newbie
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    Question Using Past Tense and Present

    I am currently writing a story on the internet, and I'm very careful about grammar.
    Recently I seem to be a little mixed up and confused.
    Is it that we should:
    Use was, were for past tense,
    but use am, is for something that cannot be changed.

    Here's a little part of my story:


    Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I drifted back to the other world. "I'm Eva," she said plainly. She didn't look like the Eva Swann I just met. But then again, I don't looked like the Bonnie with honey spun hair either. My eyes are black. My hair is black. Just, plain, black. Eva Swann has hair that was not brown, nor blonde. Her big eyes are just brown as bark. I guess ordinary people are never ordinary.

    Um, so is that right? My point of view is that her hair is always black, so it should be IS, even though this story is written in past tense. And she never looked like other girl, so she should say "I DON'T". This story is kind of confusing, so if you may, please read the whole story
    quotev.com/story/1899878/Imagine/, and tell me about my grammar errors. Please help! I know a lot of people on that site does not care about grammar, but I do. Thanks xx

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Using Past Tense and Present

    This is creative writing, where effect matters:

    Just, plain, black.
    There is no main verb in that sentence, but it is written as if it were a sentence.

    Fiction is often careless about grammar. However, you can use the present when narrating past events- it's acceptable and common in fiction and is called the historical present. Writing is about creating effects, making people feel or think and not about following prescriptive grammar rules slavishly to the detriment of the text, so I would agree with some of the people on your site. Shakespeare, Dickens, Austin, etc, all broke the rules of grammar frequently. If the present feels and reads better, use it.

    PS The link doesn't take me to your text.

  3. #3
    InvisibleSocks is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Using Past Tense and Present

    Um, I guess you have to copy paste the link. I can't post links yet.
    Thanks for the info, so can you tell me if I should change some past tense into present if you are able to read my story?
    It's a site where teens write...I just started grade seven by the way...

  4. #4
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Using Past Tense and Present

    I did copy and paste the link and it didn't take me to a story. I wouldn't say that you should change past tenses into presents- I would only say that it is possible. Again, I would say that if it feels right as the writer, then do it. Good writing comes from good writers, not rules IMO.

  5. #5
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    Academic Writing is offline Member
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    Default Re: Using Past Tense and Present

    Quote Originally Posted by InvisibleSocks View Post
    I am currently writing a story on the internet, and I'm very careful about grammar.
    Recently I seem to be a little mixed up and confused.
    Is it that we should:
    Use was, were for past tense,
    but use am, is for something that cannot be changed.

    Here's a little part of my story:


    Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I drifted back to the other world. "I'm Eva," she said plainly. She didn't look like the Eva Swann I just met. But then again, I don't looked like the Bonnie with honey spun hair either. My eyes are black. My hair is black. Just, plain, black. Eva Swann has hair that was not brown, nor blonde. Her big eyes are just brown as bark. I guess ordinary people are never ordinary.

    Um, so is that right? My point of view is that her hair is always black, so it should be IS, even though this story is written in past tense. And she never looked like other girl, so she should say "I DON'T". This story is kind of confusing, so if you may, please read the whole story
    quotev.com/story/1899878/Imagine/, and tell me about my grammar errors. Please help! I know a lot of people on that site does not care about grammar, but I do. Thanks xx
    Hi InvisibleSocks,

    Your story looks nice. I don't have time to comment on everything, but "looked" should be changed to "look" (regardless of whether you use "didn't" or "don't.").

    You can technically use either tense here. "didn't look" would have the feel of focusing on the moment in time when the conversation took place. If the conversation took place a while back and your character is remembering it, I'd probably say "didn't look" regardless of whether your character's looks have changed since them, simply because the connotation focuses on the moment. However, because you switch quickly into the present tense in the next couple sentences, it has more of a feel as if your character is narrating to herself (in her head) mentally as the conversation is taking place. In that case, you could use "I don't look," which would be more consistent with that feel and with your next two sentences.


    I'd also change "Eva Swann has hair that was not brown, nor blonde" to "Eva's hair wasn't exactly brown or blonde." (plenty of other options there if you want a slightly different emphasis of course, but the combination of has/was is incorrect in your sentence there).
    Good luck with your story!
    SeriousScholar.com

  6. #6
    InvisibleSocks is offline Newbie
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    Default Re: Using Past Tense and Present

    Yeah, I noticed the looked and look thing.
    Thanks for advice :3

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