1. Iamnotarobot?
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    Iamnotarobot? New Member

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    Mixing tenses

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Iamnotarobot?, Oct 11, 2016.

    Hello, I have a quick question about mixing tenses. When I am writing, I am always subconsciously creating sentences like this. "She ran through the kitchen, her shoes clicking on the tile as she passed." Is this acceptable? I know you're not suppose to mix tenses, but I think it sounds pretty good sometimes.
     
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  2. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's nothing grammatically wrong with that sentence. Mixing tenses would be this: She ran through the kitchen, her shoes clicking on the tile as she passes.
     
  3. Iamnotarobot?
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    Iamnotarobot? New Member

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    I see, I figured because I was using clicking rather than clicked, that implied the present tense. Thank you.
     
  4. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, that is a gerund, not a tense. I use that style heavily, to avoid choppy sentences. or repetitive subjects. Well-written example!
     
  5. Iamnotarobot?
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    Iamnotarobot? New Member

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    Thanks Lew, I have never heard of a gerund. I am going to look that up right now. I like to write sentences like that because it feels like it adds a little something more to the description, but I always felt that I was breaking some kind of rule.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it's a gerund - gerunds are words that are usually verbs doing the job of nouns - like "I love running" - running is a gerund.

    But "clicking" in the sample sentence seems like it's doing the job of a verb...

    I agree that the sentence is grammatically correct as written, but not because of gerunds.
     
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  7. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I think it's a present participle phrase.
     
  8. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Nope you're good. It is not a mix of tenses.
    But I am guilty of doing it along the larger
    part of writing. Hard to keep present tense
    all the time. Suppose it is easier to write
    things in past tense. :)
     
  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I like them and use them too, but beware that some people don't like -ing words and want it to always be -ed unless that's grammatically incorrect.

    I'm not saying you should listen to them--just be warned that you may get comments on it when you offer your work for critique.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Sadly, you're right. It happens.
     
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  11. Iamnotarobot?
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    Iamnotarobot? New Member

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    Thanks for the great advice everyone. I think what I'm going to do is continue using them, but only when it sounds really good.
     
  12. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    They work better, I think, in narration than in dialogue, because I don't think many people speak that way. In narration, though they go a long way to relieving monotony, repetition, and add a bit of rhythm
     
  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Just to throw my hat in with the rest, it's not a mixed tense. And @BayView is correct in that clicking, in this case, is not a gerund. It's a present participle. You're using the present participle here to indicate that a thing happened simultaneously with another thing, and in this case that other thing happened in the past. Notice also that using the present participle obliges that second clause to be a dependent clause (not a complete sentence) because it's not complete without the original action to which this secondary action was simultaneous, thus turning the set of descriptions into a package deal of sorts.

    It could be rewritten as:

    She ran through the kitchen. Her shoes clicked on the tile as she passed.

    We still have the same simultaneous action, but now there is more of a separation of the two things. It would depend on the effect one wanted to achieve. In this second example the shoe-clicks are more of an independent presentation; they get more focus as their own thing, rather than just being a descriptor of how she ran. Maybe the sound of the clicks is the important part in this scene, that someone heard them and knew she was home, or maybe shoe-clicks bug someone in the scene and set their teeth on edge. Who knows. Regardless, same information, different emphasis. ;)
     
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  14. Iamnotarobot?
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    Iamnotarobot? New Member

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    I see how breaking the sentence into two creates more focus on the shoe-clicks. What I like about the original sentence, is that it highlights the shoe clicks without breaking up the action. Also, like Lew mentioned it adds rhythm.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Absolutely. I was just showing that when you do change the wording (which some people will suggest you should do because they have this thing against -ing usage) it changes the delivery of the information. This thing against -ing robs us of a syntactic structure that has a use and lends a feel that should remain in our toolbox, not thrown away for arbitrary reasons.
     
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  16. Iamnotarobot?
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    Iamnotarobot? New Member

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    Thank you. I agree completely. The reason I started this post is because someone once told me that the -ing did not work however, I have always liked it. After getting feed-back from all of you I have decided that I am going to continue using it.
     
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  17. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    YEAH! Rage against the machine. :D

    I still -ing, too. Not as much... but I still do it.
     
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  18. Iamnotarobot?
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    Iamnotarobot? New Member

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    Haha yes! Iamnotarobot emerged from the shadows, refusing to conform.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2016
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