1. Crystal Parney
    Offline

    Crystal Parney Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2012
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Michigan

    Past Tense

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Crystal Parney, Mar 16, 2013.

    I know there are several kinds of past tense, and I get a little confused by them. If I am writing a story in past tense, and the narrator is telling something that happened in the past, what kind of past tense do I use? In stead of using was or were (as in past progressive), do I use had (which would be past perfect), or had been (which would be past perfect progressive)?

    Thanks, to anyone who can help.....
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Don't confuse narrative tense with grammatical tense. Narrative tense is either past tense or present tense (although some wag will undoubtedly suggest future narrative tense, but that will be entirely for the sake of argument.) Narrative tense is simply whrther the narrator is relating what happened )past) or what is happening (present).

    Grammatical tense is the verb to verb choice for each sentence or clause. Each has a particular meaning and connotation, and may also interact with other nearby verbs to indicate relative simultaneity or sequence. The only way to fully understand is to study each simple and compound grammatical tense.

    Regardless of the narrative tense, you may find examples of every grammatical tense contained within it.
     
  3. Crystal Parney
    Offline

    Crystal Parney Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2012
    Messages:
    90
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Michigan
    Thanks, I will look through those threads. So that I am understanding, if I am writing in past tense (first person) and the MC is telling about something that occured in the past , like his first kiss for example do I write.

    My first kiss was sloppy.

    or

    My first kiss had been sloppy.
     
  4. Sanjuricus
    Offline

    Sanjuricus Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2013
    Messages:
    120
    Likes Received:
    1
    Depends on the context, both could be correct.

    If recounting the events as if in a flashback, the first is correct. It is present tense.
    If referring back to a first kiss in comparison to a kiss taking place now, the second could be correct. (just an example) It is past tense.
     
  5. cazann34
    Offline

    cazann34 Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2012
    Messages:
    519
    Likes Received:
    41
    Location:
    Scotland, UK
    I would put: My first kiss had been sloppy. To me it sounds right. Its first person past. IMO
     
  6. E. C. Scrubb
    Offline

    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2012
    Messages:
    413
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    Southwest US
    "Was" is a simple past tense verb. You are relating to the reader that in the past, the first kiss you had was a sloppy kiss.

    "Had been" is a past perfect (the helper verb "had" with the appropriate "to be" verb). Specifically, your relating that in the past, you were kissed with a sloppy kiss, that kiss continued for a length of time, and then it ended in the past.

    Sorry for the pun, but I think KISS works here. Keep it Simple Silly (hate the word stupid). Use the simple past as much as possible, unless you have to tell us that an action happened, then stopped before the present.

    "I had slept for eight hours when he came to see me." The end of the action is laid out: "when he came to see me." But even that sounds contrived. It's easier to say. "The doorbell rang eight hours after I fell asleep."

    Of course, and as always, just my opinion!
     
  7. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    KISS can also mean Keep It Simple and Snappy, if you don't like the original WWII GI phrase, Keep It Simple, Stupid.

    I rather like Keep It Simple and Smart, keeping in mind that smart also means energetic and quick as well as canny and shrewd.

    I'm a firm advocate of KISS. Reducing matters to their essence is an underrated writing skill. Being CONcise goes hand in hand with being PREcise.

    What does this have to do with the thread topic? The right choice of tense is a matter of word mastery,which is an element of precise writing.
     

Share This Page