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  1. B45
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    #1

    Past tense story told in the present form

    I have trouble telling stories:

    When I first moved to the US, I didn't know any friends, so I tried very hard to meet as many people as possible, and one day I may/might have tried too hard. And this is what happened, I got back to my apartment and went in the elevator and standing there was this lady, so I decided to start a conversation with her, but she didn't reply and had this weird look on her face and stared me down like I was a weirdo. That was when I decided the best thing to do was to get off on the 2nd floor.

    VS

    Present tense:

    And this is what happened, I get back to my apartment and go in the elevator and standing there is this lady, so I decide to start a conversation with her, but she doesn't reply and has this weird look on her face and stares me down like I am a weirdo. That's when I decide the best thing to do is to get off on the 2nd floor.

    I hear people tell a past story in present tense form all the time, but why does it sound so weird when I do it?
    Last edited by B45; 10-Apr-2014 at 01:26.

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Past tense story told in the present form

    It doesn't sound weird to me. A narrative in the historical present can be more vivid and interesting. But, it is difficult and consistency is important.
    I would start it with "And this is what happens."

    Also you should look at your punctuation in the posting. In spoken English it wouldn't matter, but in written form it does.

  3. Boris Tatarenko's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: Past tense story told in the present form

    I think "I didn't know any friends" sounds strange. "I had no friends", "I didn't know anyone" sound better.
    Am I right?
    Please, correct all my mistakes. I should know English perfectly and if you show me my mistakes I will achieve my dream a little bit faster. A lot of thanks.

    Not a teacher nor a native speaker.

  4. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: Past tense story told in the present form

    Yes. Also "I didn't have any friends".

  5. Raymott's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: Past tense story told in the present form

    I'd consider "And this is what happened" to be part of the framing of the present tense narrative, and it should be in the past tense.
    But the comma following it is wrong, and there are too many commas, and too few discrete sentences.

  6. B45
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    #6

    Re: Past tense story told in the present form

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    I'd consider "And this is what happened" to be part of the framing of the present tense narrative, and it should be in the past tense.
    But the comma following it is wrong, and there are too many commas, and too few discrete sentences.
    Could you change the wording of it so that it's native or better?

  7. B45
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    #7

    Re: Past tense story told in the present form

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    It doesn't sound weird to me. A narrative in the historical present can be more vivid and interesting. But, it is difficult and consistency is important.
    I would start it with "And this is what happens."

    Also you should look at your punctuation in the posting. In spoken English it wouldn't matter, but in written form it does.
    I'm in the same boat as Boris here, I'm also trying to perfect my English for work and other various reasons. Would you consider the short story okay to a native's ear? Could you change it so that it's more smooth and flows better? Thank you!

    And what about: and one day I may/might have tried too hard. Should I use may or might here?

  8. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Past tense story told in the present form

    I would rather that you tried to correct the punctuation and sentence structure yourself. You will not learn if I do it for you. As to your may/might choice, I need an entire sentence.

  9. B45
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    #9

    Re: Past tense story told in the present form

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    I would rather that you tried to correct the punctuation and sentence structure yourself. You will not learn if I do it for you. As to your may/might choice, I need an entire sentence.
    When I first moved to the US, I didn't know any friends, so I tried very hard to meet as many people as possible, and one day I may/might have tried a little too hard. This is what happened: I got back to my apartment and walked in the elevator, standing there was this lady, so I decided to start a conversation with her, for some reason she didn't reply but had this weird look on her face and stared me down like I was a weirdo. That was when I decided the best thing to do was to get off on the 2nd floor.

    Is this better? I made a few corrections.

  10. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: Past tense story told in the present form

    Quote Originally Posted by Batman45 View Post
    When I first moved to the US, I didn't have any friends, so I tried very hard to meet as many people as possible. One day I might have tried a little too hard. This is what happened. I got back to my apartment and walked into the elevator. Standing there was this lady, so I decided to start a conversation with her. For some reason she didn't reply but had this weird look on her face and stared me down like I was a weirdo. That was when I decided the best thing to do was to get off on the 2nd floor.

    Is this better? I made a few corrections.
    Yes, this is better. A sentence should be a complete thought. If you try to combine too many thoughts in one sentence it gets too complicated.

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