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    #1

    About the Tense you use to write stories...

    Hi, English teachers:

    I'm a Chinese. Back in middle school I was not a very good student of English. Had quite a lot unattentive(is that a word?) moments and missed a lot of lectures*blushes*. That's why I have never been sure about the correct tenses one should use in writing stories.

    By my observation, I've noticed that most plot synopsises are written in present tense, even if they happened in the past. And most stories and novels are written in past tense. Is there a rule to follow?? such as, plot synopsis---present tense; stories/novels---past tense??

    Chinese language does not have tenses. We judge the time by context and time-setting words. Under the influence of my mother tongue, I'm very confused at "tense agreement" sometimes. Like, in a novel written in past tense, the author (who is still alive) writes:" My mother was a good cook." (His mother is still alive and still a good cook). Sentences like this confuse me a lot. Do you native speakers find it wierd too??

    It's my first time posting here and hope I can get some help from you excellent teachers. Hope I can be of help to others too, as long as I'm capable of.

    Best regards to all,
    Pinbong

  1. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: About the Tense you use to write stories...

    Generally, we write stories in the past tense.

    I personally find stories written in the present tense fatiguing to read.

    The book may say "My mother was a great cook" because the story starts back when the story-teller was young, so it was in the past.
    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.

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    #3

    Re: About the Tense you use to write stories...

    Thank you, Mr. Barb D. And in a story written in past tense, if the author want to say something like "the Earth revolves around the Sun. " (not using quotes.) What tense should this sentence be in?? (Note that the story is in past tense in general)

    I just want to know if it's possible and grammatically correct to pop up sentences of present tense in a past-tense story/novel.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: About the Tense you use to write stories...

    Quote Originally Posted by pinbong View Post
    Thank you, Mr. Barb D. And in a story written in past tense, if the author want to say something like "the Earth revolves around the Sun. " (not using quotes.) What tense should this sentence be in?? (Note that the story is in past tense in general)

    I just want to know if it's possible and grammatically correct to pop up sentences of present tense in a past-tense story/novel.
    In fiction, the use of tenses is at the discretion of the writer. Some may use what might seem a very strange combination of tenses. The writer may be trying to create a special effect - or s/he may be just a bad writer.

    There are no rules, though re-read Barb-D's posting. It reflects the situation as most native speakers would see it. At least, I think it does!
    Last edited by 5jj; 27-Oct-2010 at 21:00.

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    #5

    Re: About the Tense you use to write stories...

    And thepresent tense is commonly used for a synopsis.

  3. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: About the Tense you use to write stories...

    My mother is a good cook. That's as true today, as she wins every pie baking contest at Shady Acres Retirement Center, as it was 24 years ago, when the strange tale I'm about to tell you takes place. Her cooking is at the heart of this story, really, because she had just... when ... came to town and... so we... and then he... If the sheriff hadn't been at our dining room table that Sunday, as he was just about every time his wife went to visit her ailing sister in Des Moines (remember, I told you Mom was a good cook), he never would have... but he was, and so he...

    Yes, you will mix tenses.
    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.

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    #7

    Re: About the Tense you use to write stories...

    That was most helpful, Mr. Barb D:)

    Actually, brilliant and most patient. Many thanks to you:)

  4. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: About the Tense you use to write stories...

    Glad it was helpful - but please call me either Barb or Mrs. D, but not "Mr" anything!
    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.

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