1. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    Question about tenses of the verb “to be”.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by The Backward OX, Apr 2, 2009.

    My story is being written in the usual “John phoned Marsha” past tense. In the story however a phrase occurs where I am uncertain whether to use “was” or “is”. Perhaps you can tell me which is correct in the following sentence, and why, or if it doesn’t really matter.

    The technology enabling man to fly was/is still some twenty or so years in the future.

    Thanks.
     
  2. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    It's neither. Re-read my post. Did I fail to make myself clear? Past tense for everything else. One sentence only, about which I ask the question.
     
  3. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    Sorry. My fault. I used quotes simply to highlight the sentence under discussion. I won't do that again in a hurry. But thanks for your answer.

    Original Post now edited to remove quote marks.
     
  4. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Since it's in past tense, the correct word usage here would be "was." I'd look to see if this sentence is really necessary tho- I mean, does the reader really need to know that flight technology isn't invented til twenty years later? (Notice I use present tense here because I'm posting in present tense). Sometimes sentences like this get on my nerves (no offense) because it is very often pointless information when pitted against the storyline itself.

    ~Lynn
     
  5. The Backward OX
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    The Backward OX Senior Member

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    Good point. Thanks.
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    How about, man wouldn't develop the technology to fly for another twenty years?

    Either way, there is no reason to say some twenty or so years in the future. Reduce that to, twenty years away.

    The technology enabling man to fly was still twenty years away.

    But like Lynn said, the information should serve a purpose. I think it is worth putting in even if it only used for world building.

    But then you could just say something like, they couldn't fly yet.
     
  7. lynneandlynn
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    lynneandlynn Contributing Member

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    Architectus, I'd disagree that it should be put in for word building. You should only ever word-build if you're doing Nano...if you're not working on a Nano novel, you should do your best to avoid wordiness. The more simple and concise a piece is, the better it will read.

    ~Lynn
     

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