1. ugu
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    ugu New Member

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    Present Tense vs. Past Tense

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ugu, Jun 8, 2008.

    I was writing a review for a movie that I saw recently, and I confused myself because I kept switching my tenses. It is in my understanding that we're supposed to use present tense to tell the story (e.g., "Tom goes to school") and past tense to state our opinion (e.g., "I thought Tom was a good boy"). Clarification on how to review properly, please?

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  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Stories should not be told in present tense. That's an opinion, not a rule, but present tense narrative is invariably abominable.
  3. Anliya
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    Anliya New Member

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    I'm pretty sure that when you're summarizing or telling a part of the story in a review or paper, you should always use present tense, unless you're talking about a point in the story and then referring to something that happened earlier. For example: "This movie is about a character named Tom. Tom arrives late to school. He took (or had taken) too long eating breakfast. This part of the movie struck me as particularly... etc etc."

    I hope that helps! And try looking at an actual movie review if you aren't sure. :)
  4. chad.sims2
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    chad.sims2 New Member

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    I didn't know there where gindlines on how to write a review for a movie i thought fat people who ate to much popcorn and liked to stick there thumbs in places they don't belong just randomly decided if the movie was bad or good only to be wrong half the time.
  5. NaCl
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    NaCl New Member Contributor

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    By "...tell the story...", do you mean "...tell about the story..."?

    Since your question seems to be how to "review" as opposed to how to write it, I have no problem with the approach you mentioned. Let's put the question to the test. Consider the following four "reviews". Which one sounds best?

    1) Present tense/past tense, as you suggest it:

    "Tom goes to school and discovers his teacher, Mrs. Mary McQuinn, has become Mr. Marty McQuinn over the weekend. The rest of this heartwarming tale explores his observations of how different classmates react to the change.

    I particularly liked the MC's private thoughts as he considered the values underlying each student's perspective."

    2) All past tense:

    "Tom went to school and discovered his teacher, Mrs. Mary McQuinn, had become Mr. Marty McQuinn over the weekend. The rest of this heartwarming tale explored his observations of how different classmates reacted to the change.

    I particularly liked the MC's private thoughts as he considered the values underlying each student's perspective."

    3) All present tense:

    "Tom goes to school and discovers his teacher, Mrs. Mary McQuinn, has become Mr. Marty McQuinn over the weekend. The rest of this heartwarming tale explores his observations of how different classmates react to the change.

    I particularly like the MC's private thoughts as he considers the values underlying each student's perspective."

    4) Reverse of your original premise past tense/present tense:

    "Tom went to school and discovered his teacher, Mrs. Mary McQuinn, had become Mr. Marty McQuinn over the weekend. The rest of this heartwarming tale explored his observations of how different classmates reacted to the change.

    I particularly like the MC's private thoughts as he considers the values underlying each student's perspective."

    Which one reads best? Which one is correct according to some standards for "reviewing"?

    .....NaCl

    ps I like Number 1 because the storyline in present tense draws me into the story before reading the reviewer's opinion. Number 2 reads too much like a technical manual for my tastes. Number 3 is pretty close to number one as it draws me into the story but I feel like the author is sitting across from me as she explains her reaction to the story. Number 4 works too, but my top preference is present/present (Number 3)...and I don't think any of these combinations is "wrong".
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Supporter Contributor

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    you're right... that would be the correct way to write a review...
  7. ugu
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    ugu New Member

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    Can you (or anyone) point out which of these would be correct?

    The part where Tom eats breakfast struck me as particularly...

    The part where Tom ate breakfast struck me as particularly...


    ...because that's basically where I'm stuck at.
  8. Anliya
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    Anliya New Member

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    It should be "eats."
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Supporter Contributor

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    yup!... refer to events in the movie in present tense, your reaction/opinion [at the time] in past... if you want to add a current opinion at the close of the review, you can do that in present... such as: 'This is a great flick. I'm sure you'll love it.'
  10. Normski
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    Normski New Member

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    Now I am just a simple lad from secondary education - many moons ago but this strikes me as being incorrect. Are you not mixing tenses in a sentence here when you say eats is correct?

    Eats = present ... and ... Struck = past

    Would. if as you suggest "Eats" is correct then surely the tense of "Struck" should reflect the same change to present tense. This would give us, "The part where Tom eats breakfast strikes me as particularly..."

    To my jaundiced eye "The part where Tom ate breakfast struck me as particularly..." is the one that is more right between them

    But I emphasize that what I know about English can be written on a postage stamp in Comic Sans 12
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Supporter Contributor

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    sorry, but you're wrong in this particular situation... in a review, all that goes on in the movie/book/whatever is referred to in present tense, but the reviewer's reaction can be referred to in past tense [though it can also be in present, if the opinion is ongoing]...

    when it's a first-time reaction being referred to, as in the example above, it can only be past tense, since he was 'struck' in the past, when he first saw the movie/read the book... that said, the present tense 'strikes' can also be used, if it still does, whenever he sees the movie/reads the book again... so, have i sufficiently confused you, yet? ;-)

    hugs, m
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