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  1. learning54's Avatar
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    #1

    Which tense to use for questions based on a story in present or past?

    Hi Teachers,
    Could you answer these 3 questions please?

    If I have a story narrated in the simple present and present progressive ...
    1. Can I ask my students questions in the simple past and past progressive based on that story?
    2. Can I also ask them questions just in the simple present and present progressive based on that story?
    3. What if there are dialogues in the simple past and simple present, should I only use the tense in the dialogue to ask them the questions?

    Example for questions 1 and 2
    Two hundred miles away in London, Baxter’s train is standing at platform 9 in Paddington Station. Baxter’s sitting in a comfortable compartment. There is another man opposite him. Baxter doesn’t know the man, but he can see he wants to talk. The man’s holding a newspaper in his hands.

    Example for question 3
    “You know, your clothes are in a terrible state,” the old lady said after the meal. “You ruined them when you had the accident!”
    “That’s all right. They’re just my work clothes,” Coke answered.
    “My husband was about your size. A little heavier perhaps. All his clothes are upstairs. They’re no good to him. He died two years ago.” She pointed up to the room above them.
    “Why don’t you see if any of his clothes fit you? You can bring them back tomorrow.”

    Thanks in advance
    Last edited by 5jj; 01-Jan-2012 at 11:13. Reason: Accidental editing - now rectified. Sorry.

  2. 5jj's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Which tense to use for questions based on a story in present or past?

    If you are narrating the story in present tense forms, then it seems most natural to use the same forms in any questions you ask.

    If your students are at a fairly low level, it does not seem to me to be a good idea to mix present and past tenses for narative. I would have chosen the more natural past, but if you are going to use the present, I suggest you stick with it.

    ps. I apologise for accidentally editing the original post. I clicked in the wrong place. I have now restored your post.
    Last edited by 5jj; 01-Jan-2012 at 11:16. Reason: ps added

  3. learning54's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Which tense to use for questions based on a story in present or past?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    If you are narrating the story in present tense forms, then it seems most natural to use the same forms in any questions you ask.

    If your students are at a fairly low level, it does not seem to me to be a good idea to mix present and past tenses for narative. I would have chosen the more natural past, but if you are going to use the present, I suggest you stick with it.

    ps. I apologise for accidentally editing the original post. I clicked in the wrong place. I have now restored your post.
    Hi sir,
    Thank you for your reply. Don't need to apologise, we all make mistakes, don't we?
    But thanks anyway.
    What if there is a story written in present, can I ask questions in past for one text and let's say, questions in present for another? I mean, can I use either form as long as I'm consistent?
    eg. One text with questions only in past.
    Another text with question only in present.

    I guess what is a bad thing to do is to mix questions in present and past about the same text.

    Best,
    L54

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    #4

    Re: Which tense to use for questions based on a story in present or past?

    If a story is written in the present, then asking questions in the past strikes me as confusing.

  4. learning54's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Which tense to use for questions based on a story in present or past?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    If a story is written in the present, then asking questions in the past strikes me as confusing.
    Hi,
    Thank you for your reply. But with all my respect, why I can't use either form as long as I'm consistent. The past forms mirror the story, while the present forms consider the story itself as existing now.

    L54

  5. 5jj's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Which tense to use for questions based on a story in present or past?

    I have told you that it is simpler to use the same tense in story and questions, and Tdol has told you that it is less confusing. If you still want to do something different, go ahead.Most teachers who are native speakers wouldn't.

  6. learning54's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: Which tense to use for questions based on a story in present or past?

    Quote Originally Posted by 5jj View Post
    I have told you that it is simpler to use the same tense in story and questions, and Tdol has told you that it is less confusing. If you still want to do something different, go ahead.Most teachers who are native speakers wouldn't.
    Hi sir,
    So sorry, but if I have insisted on this matter it is because I have books at home that even though the story is in present ask questions in past; other's don't though. I've been very confused about it. But if you say that it is simpler and less confusing, no further questions at this point. It's crystal clear.

    My apologies if I seemed stubborn.
    L54

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    #8

    Re: Which tense to use for questions based on a story in present or past?

    Being stubborn isn't always a bad thing! I have been thinking about your various possibilities and trying to imagine the story and the questions. So ...

    There is a man at the door. He has a red nose. He is carrying a copy of the New York Times and wearing a red carnation. His hat is pulled down low. He looks very shifty. I don't know if I should open the door to him. I think he might have a gun.

    Q1: Where is the man?
    Q2: What is he wearing?
    Q3: Does he have a gun?

    OR

    Q1: Where was the man?
    Q2: What was he wearing?
    Q3: Did he have a gun?

    Which of those sets of questions sounds most natural to you. I know which set I think is the most natural but see if you get the same feeling.

  8. learning54's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: Which tense to use for questions based on a story in present or past?

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Being stubborn isn't always a bad thing! I have been thinking about your various possibilities and trying to imagine the story and the questions. So ...

    There is a man at the door. He has a red nose. He is carrying a copy of the New York Times and wearing a red carnation. His hat is pulled down low. He looks very shifty. I don't know if I should open the door to him. I think he might have a gun.

    Q1: Where is the man?
    Q2: What is he wearing?
    Q3: Does he have a gun?

    OR

    Q1: Where was the man?
    Q2: What was he wearing?
    Q3: Did he have a gun?

    Which of those sets of questions sounds most natural to you. I know which set I think is the most natural but see if you get the same feeling.
    Hi,
    Thank you for your examples and mostly for your words.
    This is a very clear example. The first set seems to be the most appropriate one of course!I hope you have the same feeling.

    Best,
    L54

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