1. jimbond68

    jimbond68 New Member

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    writing in the past tense

    Discussion in 'By Writing Form' started by jimbond68, Feb 20, 2019.

    Hello. Thanks to anyone who can give me some insight on this.

    When writing narrative in the past tense, is this sentence acceptable and remaining in the past, or does it move into the present?

    “Oh It’s fine, son” his Dad had said, waving his right arm toward the man.

    Because of the use of "waving" instead of "then waved" is it now written in present tense?

    I hope that makes sense.

    Thanks
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I see this type of usage a lot, and I think it's fine. You've already established that the action occurred in the past.
     
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  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    @jimbond68 , I want to mildly comment on the fact that you asked this question four times in four different posts. Sometimes it takes a little while to get an answer--I would suggest posting just once.
     
  4. jimbond68

    jimbond68 New Member

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    Thank you. On the same subject, is this continuing in the past tense... "The man felt he was standing on the wall of a mountain" or does it have to read... "the man felt he stood on the wall of a mountain".

    Are both of them past tense?
     
  5. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Narrative tense is not the same as grammatical tense. You can be writing in past (narrative) tense and still have a mix of verbs in every possible grammatical tense, even in the same sentence.
     
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  6. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    I don't know what it is but it should be:

    The man felt as if he were standing on a mountain

    The man felt as though he stood on the wall of a mountain

    (it's late here so I wouldn't be surprised if it were the reverse, don't feel like looking it up right now) I just know you need some as if or as though in there. Or "like". The man felt like he was standing on a mountain.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019
  7. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    Waving his right arm toward the man, is a participle phrase acting like an adjective. It's describing the dad. (You could make the case it's an adverb phrase instead, depending on your perspective. Same outcome for us though.) So it's not a verb and has no tense. Your worry is unfounded here. This would be the mistake you're worrying about:

    “Oh it’s fine, son,” his Dad had said and waves his right arm toward the man.

    or this monstrosity (to make the participle waving be the main verb)
    “Oh it’s fine, son,” his Dad had said and is waving his right arm toward the man.​

    Which would both need to be put on life support.

    And tenses do change in the paragraph. There are reasons why you would jump from past to present tense. So even if you see it happen, it's not necessarily a mistake. I don't mean that you should ignore all tense changes because they suddenly don't matter, but just know that it's not an issue that always needs fixing.

    Basically you're matching around parallel structures. When you see a conjunction (and/or/but/etc.), you want the left and right half to match:
    • said AND waved
    • says AND waves
    • is saying AND is waving
    • had said AND waved
    The last one joins past perfect and past. But this forum has been nervous about that idea lately, so the less said about it the better.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2019
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  8. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    I'm glad you said it would need to be on life support.
     
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  9. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Contributor Contributor

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    As if/as though are pretty much synonymous. You play them by ear.

    There is a grammar rule that's somewhat ignored, so think of it more as a 'grammar suggestion' that wants to be the baseline but gets demoted easily.

    Use as/like for comparing nouns.
    Use as for comparing actions.

    So this would be the safe choice:

    The man felt as if he were standing on a mountain.​

    The reason for that is that as allows the subjunctive mood (because of the theoretical impossibility above, was became were). But if you have a good reason, you can change it. There are rules out there that are flouted so often that they hardly matter, but it's kind of nice to know the safe ground and decide what to do from there.
     
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  10. JackL

    JackL Member

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    Tense has a companion called aspect. They always go together: tense and aspect. Tense will tell you when something happens: had said (his dad had said), aspect will tell if an action is going during that past tense: waving (had said, waving his right arm...."

    'Waving' (aspect) stays the same no matter the tense:

    his dad says, waving toward the man
    his dad said, waving toward the man
    his dad had said, waving toward the man

    So you can see that 'aspect' represents ongoing action no matter the tense found in the main clause, and it will be found in every manner of overall narrative tense.

    But a further edit could be to delete 'his right arm'. If it's not absolutely necessary that readers know which arm he's waving (and the ambiguity over waving amputated arms in general!), then leave it out, as 'waving' itself suggests an action done by the person. E.g,

    "Oh, it’s fine, son,” his Dad had said, waving toward the man.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2019

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