1. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Was or Is.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Elgaisma, Sep 27, 2010.

    I am still writing in present tense. One of my characters died last year but his twin brother is still alive.

    Would I write

    My Uncle James is my dad's identical twin brother.
    Or
    My Uncle James was my dad's identical twin brother.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Is Uncle James or the "dad' the one who died?

    If Uncle James is still alive, I'd go with the first sentence. If Uncle James is the one who died, then go with the second.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Uncle James is still alive. That's what I thought but when I wrote it was less sure lol Presumably with decomposition they are no longer identical in looks:)
     
  4. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    "My Uncle James was my dad's identical twin brother" implies that Uncle James is dead. As you said he is still alive, the first sentence is more accurate.

    However, if "my dad" was the subject of the sentence, it should read as such, "My dad was my Uncle James' identical twin brother."
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Writing in present tense is the narrative tense. Do not confuse that with the grammatical tense of individual verbs. Even writing in present tense, there can be references to past and future events and actions.

    Narrative tense and grammatical tense are not the same thing.
     
  6. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ditto Cog.
    So, if your narrative is anchored in present time, your sentences could still have other tenses, something like:

    My father IS a great guy, only these days he GETS depressed easily. He IS still feeling the loss of his brother. Uncle James WAS his identical twin, but he DIED last year. He HADN'T BEEN well for a long time, but it WAS a shock all the same.
    Anyway, Dad sometimes just SHUTS himself away in his study. We can only hope he WILL get over it, since it HASN'T BEEN easy for Mum to cope and she IS at the end of her tether.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My sentences are varied with past tense, future tense etc I just placed the telling present tense in case it had a baring sometimes it does.

    My concern was with the demise of the character, and that particular sentence.
     
  8. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    James's.
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, James' is also correct.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If the narrator has accepted (internalized) the death, he or she will probably use was. But it's common while someone is in denial about the death to continue to use the word is. That choice is very revealing, especially if it takes place in dialogue.
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I get that side of it - it is a year on from the death, narator was kind of relieved to see it and has moved on. We are the stage where correct usage comes into it rather than reaction.

    My issue is more - Uncle James still is a twin which i think first two posters suggested. Whereas his brother Lorenzo was a twin. If I was telling it in past tense I could just use was. However because it is present tense I am less sure. Dug my punctuation and grammar book out it suggests as the subject is still alive it is, is.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If one (or both) of them is dead, they were twins.
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does someone stop being a twin just because the other one died? I would still be my brother's sister if he died. Hmm actually think maybe this is more a twin question than grammar then?

    EDIT and with that last thought answered my own question lol I am Mac's grandaughter - Mac was my grandmother.

    James is still Lorenzo's brother's twin whereas Lorenzo was his brother's twin. Like first two posters said. Makes sense now:)
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It is a matter of connotation vs denotation. In common usage, twin-ness is a living relationship, even though from a technical, genetic, and dictionary sense, they are still twins after death.
     
  15. Trilby
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    I'm not sure if the following sentence is grammaticlly correct but, it seems to make the situation clear;

    Uncle James is my late Father's twin brother.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have just gone with is - I have already mentioned twice in the chapter his father is dead so decided it is clear. Is is the right way because the whole work is present tense, I was correct that the work being in present tense has a relevance to the question and the subject is still alive - I contacted my high school English teacher in the end lol She has also crossed heart and promised that she isn't making it up:)

    If the dead man had been the subject I would use was.
     
  17. Benevolent Pudding
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    Is, to the best of my knowledge, is the correct word. If 'Uncle James' is the subject of the sentence i.e. the main event of the sentence, who the sentence is about—then the rest of the sentence pertains to him—not your father. Therefore, Uncle James is still a twin, regardless your father being alive or not. They were twins (a pair), but Uncle James is still a twin (singular). Not just because of present tense.
     
  18. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    yes, what my English teacher said I'd have got away with was in past tense, rather than it being correct. In present tense I would have been plain wrong to use was on any level.

    My English teachers are excited about my book lol I had forgotten I had them as a resource. (been nearly twenty years since I left).
     

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