1. Steb
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    Steb New Member

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    is/was

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Steb, Jan 10, 2010.

    Would you say:

    "The youngest player ever to win the Masters Tournament was Tiger Woods",

    or

    "The youngest player ever to win the Masters Tournament is Tiger Woods"?

    I'm thinking the second form is correct as Tiger Woods still is the youngest player ever to win the Masters. 'Was' suggests he once was the youngest but is no longer, but this forms seems to roll off the tongue better.

    Which is correct?
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    has nothing to do with his present age... since he's still alive, it has to be 'is'... after he's no longer with us, it would be 'was'...

    if a player who's younger than he was at the time should win it in the future, then woods would simply no longer be the youngest ever to win it...
     
  3. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    What if you are writing the article in the past tense?

    I get this argument a lot in forums. People say that if you are writing in the past tense, then to use was in this situation.

    What if it is a novel written in the past tense? Does the rule change?

    Jill Baxter is the youngest female to win the Galaxy Gladiator's Cup, so she walked with pride.

    Or should "is" be "was" since this is a story and not an article?
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if writing in past tense, yes, it would have to be 'was'...
     
  5. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Cool, thanks. It just feels odd when reading a novel that is written in the past tense, and I run across a sentence like: The earth was a nice planet.

    That feels like it is saying the earth isn't a nice planet anymore, and in the novel, the earth still exist, of course. Really, what it is saying is that the earth is a nice planet, but because it is written in the past tense, "is" becomes "was."

    It just makes for odd reading at times.

    In my grammar book, concerning stories, it said if something is still true in the story world, even if it is written in the past tense, use is. I think grammar.ccc also states this, but I could be wrong.
     
  6. zaffy
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    zaffy Contributing Member

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    I have also seen 'now' used in novels written in the past tense, which I find odd.

    She was okay now.
    Now was the time for her to ...

    Another one is 'here' written in the third person, past tense.
    I haven't got an exact example but something like this ...
    There will be a descriptive passage and then the line, 'She liked it here'.
    I would be tempted to write 'there'.
     
  7. Steb
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    Steb New Member

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    My apologies for not responding earlier mammamaia. I've been pondering your post for a few days, hoping it all becomes a bit clearer.

    Yes, I didn't consider the living status. Thanks for that.

    "The oldest women's US Open doubles champion was Hazel Wightman (1928) 42 years"--I agree this would sound silly with an 'is'.

    But what do you think about:

    "The most consecutive aces by a junior is 10, by John Thomas (1901-1978)"

    vs

    "The most consecutive aces by a junior was 10, by John Thomas (1901-1978)"

    Here the 'was' isn't applied directly to the person, but a quantity that still exists.
     
  8. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    This one's bothered me a few times, too. Your grammar book suggests that "The earth is a nice planet" is correct in a past tense story? I actually think was flows better in the context and I've preferred that, but still felt that it didn't make perfect sense and in most cases I've reworked the sentence to avoid the issue (even at compromise to flow). Would love to know a definitive right way of doing it.
     
  9. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    If you were writing a novel in the past tesne, which would you write?

    The mind is a product of the brain.

    The mind was a product of the brain.
     
  10. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    You got me. In the earth example I voted for was, but perhaps because I saw it as an impression in the head of the MC. I did that because in my own story, where the narrator is the MC, he refers to the location he's at in past tense (while the location would still exist after the story), and hence uses was.

    So, ok, let's say that the MC in a past tense story is from Mars and visits Earth during the story and he says in the narration "Earth was a nice place" would that be right? Or does it leave the impression that earth no longer exist at the time of narration? On the other hand, "Earth is a nice place" could appear to break the past tense and thus the flow.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    steb...
    has to be 'is' since the record still holds...

    horus...
    in the context you've specified, it would be 'was'... the narrator is speaking in the past tense, so 'is' would be nonsensical...
     
  12. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    It would be is, since the record still holds.
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Because of the rules, I use past tense if I am writing in past tense, but when it comes to the narration having a phrase like, "the mind is a product of the brain," I use "is" because "was" just sounds way to far out in this case.

    If the editor doesn't like it, he/she will change it. Such cases are so rare anyway.
     

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