1. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Using the word now in past tense

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by peachalulu, Feb 19, 2015.

    I have a chapter that I was thinking of starting with a certain sentence -
    Time began for the passenger now. ( not certain if I need a comma there or not )

    I'm prone to write short stories in present tense and unconsciously thought of this sentence in present tense -
    Time begins for the passenger now.

    But this is going to be part of a novel and I don't want to use present tense. But I'm not sure the now thing works with past tense. Any ideas? Does it work?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It works.

    I think I'd word it: "Time now began for the passenger."

    You could also make it work with "then."

    "Then, time began for the passenger."

    Or, instead of qualifying it with "now" or "then," you could simply write "Time began for the passenger."
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Examples from the Free Dictionary:
    The only one with a comma is the command, "Now, let's get..."
     
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  4. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    I second "then" and will add "at that moment" or "right then." I don't think "now" works in the past tense.
     
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  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It works just fine. You're saying "now" as in presently for the character, but the event you're describing - the "now" moment for the character - happened in the past. People write like that all the time.

    I usually use "now" to either emphasis things like you do with your line, or else to clarify a switch back to the present situation after a flashback.
     
  6. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree 'Now' works. In past tense it can be an indicator that the rest of the sentence is the POV character's real time perception.
    If the sentence is meant to be narrative POV then I'm not sure 'now' works.
    If it was already clear that we were in a character's real time POV then 'now' may be excessive. (Not the case here though as it's the opening line in a chapter and there aren't any other indicators)
     
  7. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    I disagree that "now" in this context is acceptable. The placement of "now" at the end of the sentence identifies it as a time expression, which means, "right now," or, "at this moment in the present." If the word order were different, say, "Time now began for the passenger," that would be okay. The word then has the meaning of: at this time or juncture in some period under consideration or in some course of proceedings described (from dictionary.com).

    I agree with @plothog that its use might be altogether unnecessary.
     
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  8. Mike Kobernus
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    Mike Kobernus Contributing Member

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    Why must you use 'now'?

    Time began for the passenger.

    That is better, I feel. Punchier...
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    The character has amnesia. So I thought now was significant. I don't know.
    I'm toying with this as my beginning can be a little rough so nothing right now is set in stone.
    I fuss over certain words in order to get the tone right.
     
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  10. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    That's not a bad idea, and I disagree that it doesn't work at the end of the sentence. Still works just fine there, and given the amnesia you may want to emphasize the word in some way, so it becomes more significant as the start of a timeline. You could set it off with a comma, for example:

    Time began for the passenger, now.

    Even with the amnesia, I think it will work without the "now," because it's a fairly abrupt statement that implies some prior period of time before the important "now," but if you prefer it with the "now" I think it works that way as well.
     
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  11. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes, I was thinking of setting the now off with either the dot dot dot ellipsis or a comma.
     
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  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, an ellipsis or dash occurred to me as well.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Sure it does. It functions like 'then'. See the dictionary examples in post #3.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    I think it looks that way to you because you don't have the context of the whole piece.
     
  15. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Hmmm.

    Time began for the passenger right then ...

    it's also the difference between began and begins as begins is present tense, began is past.

    A new time began at that moment ...

    Time as the passenger knew it, began then ...

    Time, for the passenger, had a new beginning which started then ...

    I don't think 'now' works for past tense.
     
  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Without the rest of the paragraph, how can you tell?
     
  17. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    I'm sure more context would help, but I think it looks that way because of word order.

    He went to the store then (at that time).
    He goes to the store now (at the present).

    He then (next in a series) went the store.
    He now (next in a series) goes to the store.
     
  18. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Just by the word now, it screams present tense.

    The only way I could see 'now' working would be if it was a prologue, (or even a previous chapter) like:

    Prologue,
    Time began for the passenger, now.

    Chapter One, Two years later.
    story, story story ......
     

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