1. MrSchofield
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    MrSchofield New Member

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    Tense

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by MrSchofield, May 3, 2011.

    When writing a story, I believe I often switch between past and present tense.

    Example:

    "Hello," Rory said, walking toward Rose.
    "What's up?" Rose responded.
    "Nothing," Rory answered. Yawning he looked around the school.


    So, In that little exchange, was I switching back and forth? If so, how do I avoid it?
     
  2. WastelandSurvivor
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    WastelandSurvivor Member

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    I have underlined past tense words and put your present tense words in bold so that you can see that you were, indeed, switching back and forth. That said, I have seen this done in the books of many published authors and it goes over well enough. I, personally, try to avoid it by rewording my sentences. This is an example of how you might be able to reword your sample:

    "Hello," Rory said as he walked toward Rose.
    "What's up?" Rose responded.
    "Nothing," Rory answered with a yawn and a bored glance around the school.
     
  3. MrSchofield
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    MrSchofield New Member

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    Thanks for the timely response. I'll try to keep everything in one tense, though I won't give my self a headache doing so, seeing as it goes well for published authors.

    Is there a way to make that exchange all present tense, or would it be too weird to do so?
     
  4. WastelandSurvivor
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    WastelandSurvivor Member

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    I'm sure that you can make that exchange all present tense, but I never write present tense if I can help it--it just feels a bit odd and simplistic to me because it comes out like this:

    "Hello," Rory says as he walks toward Rose.
    "What's up?" Rose responds.
    "Nothing," Rory answers with a yawn and a bored glance around the school.
     
  5. MrSchofield
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    MrSchofield New Member

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    I agree, it is odd. Past tense, you're my new best friend.
     
  6. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not quite. The ones in bold are not present tense; they are "non-finite -ing clauses". The "non-finite" means that they don't have tense at all: they are not past, present or future, even though they're formed in the same way as the present participle. That's why you can use them safely in the way that the original questioner did, and there's no need to reword (though of course you can if you want to).
     
  7. MrSchofield
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    MrSchofield New Member

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    My head hurts now. What makes a word non-finite?
     
  8. WastelandSurvivor
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    WastelandSurvivor Member

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    Ah, I suppose that is true--I just know that during the only Creative Writing course I ever took I was told that I was mixing tenses when I used those words in that manner and so that is what I took it to mean. It did seem a bit odd at the time, but I am a product of a school system with only one real English and Grammar class in the entire curriculum (which was 7th Grade English) and I never went to college, so what do I know? Thank you very much for the clarification :)
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    In simple terms, what makes it non-finite is that the verb doesn't indicate when something happened (so usually there has to be another verb in the sentence to indicate tense). Typical examples are infinitives ("to walk") and participles ("the talking children"). You can't tell whether "to walk" is in the past, present or future until it gets put into a sentence: "I wanted to walk to the shops." You can't tell whether the children were talking, are talking, or will be talking. "walking toward Rose" is a non-finite clause, because you can't tell whether he was walking toward Rose, is walking toward Rose, or will be walking toward Rose without looking at the rest of the sentence.
     
  10. MrSchofield
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    MrSchofield New Member

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    Ok, so I think I have my head wrapped around it.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    dig is right, that's not really 'mixing tenses' and it's done all the time in good writing...

    mixing tenses would be:

     

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