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Thread: tenses

  1. #1
    darren Guest

    tenses

    what tense should we use when we tell a story/happening to somebody? it took place in the past, then is it a must to use past tense? i noticed that sometimes people tend to use present tense instead. Can someone explain the difference to me? and it'll grateful accompanied with examples.
    thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    We often start with the past (I was on my way home last night) then move into the present to make the story more vivid and alive (and a man comes up to me with a knife....)

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    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Re: tenses

    Quote Originally Posted by darren
    what tense should we use when we tell a story/happening to somebody? it took place in the past, then is it a must to use past tense? i noticed that sometimes people tend to use present tense instead. Can someone explain the difference to me? and it'll grateful accompanied with examples.
    thanks in advance.
    There are two basic ways to tell a story from the past. The simplest and most common is to use the past tense. The second way is to use the "historical present". To do that, one projects themselves into the past and tells the story as it is unfolding. For this to be effective, one shopuld make sure that one stays in the present tense. That is often not easy.

    Jokes are often told in the historical present.

    A man walks into a bar and asks the bartender for three shots of whiskey. The bartender asks him, "Do you want all three at once." The man says, "Yes". The bartender shrugs and pours three shots of whiskey in three separate shot glasses.

    etc.

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