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Consistency of Tense.

A common mistake is to change tense in the middle of a sentence or paragraph.

I was quite surprised how well I feel. (Past tense becomes present.)

She fully intended to do her homework but she forgets and goes out with her mates. (Past tense becomes present.)

Tim wants to get a job but he didn't know what to do about it. (Present tense becomes past.)

When you are recounting the plot of a play or other literary work, you should use the present tense.

At this point Japhy and Ray decide to climb a mountain in the High Sierras. They spend a night under the stars, and Japhy cooks a fantastic chocolate pudding, which cools in the snow.

Be careful not to slip into the past tense.

At this point Japhy and Ray decide to climb a mountain in the High Sierras. They spend a night under the stars, and Japhy cooked a fantastic chocolate pudding, which cooled in the snow.

It might be necessary to use the past tense (perfect tense) when a chronological sequence of events is involved.

Once Japhy and Ray have packed the car, they are able to set off for the mountains.

Test your understanding of tense consistency with this exercise.