OER Writing Resources

 

OER Writing Resources

PET

Tense Agreement

Grammar: Tense Agreement—Lesson

In this lesson you will learn to recognize shifts in tense by reading through one rule and several explanations.

Rule

Do not shift tense unnecessarily.

Correct Examples

  • He likes kiwi fruit, so he eats them often.
  • The ship exploded, and all the equipment was lost.
  • The apple had a worm and rotted.

Incorrect Examples

  • He liked kiwi fruit, so he eats them often.
  • The ship explodes, and all the equipment was lost.
  • The apple has a worm and rotted.

Error: Needless Changes in Tense

Tense should not be needlessly changed.

  • Incorrect: He took the pass; he scores.

First he receives a puck, and then he makes a goal. The author of this sentence has shifted the time sequence. He makes it sound as if the puck had been passed long before the goal was scored. It is incorrect to shift tenses like this unless you really mean there was such a time difference between events.

  • Correct: He took the pass; he scored.

The reader now knows that both events occurred in the past.

However, if you listen to a hockey broadcast, you may hear this: “He takes the pass; he scores.” Either way is correct.

Error: Inconsistent Timing of Events

Do not shift tense unless there is an actual shift in time. Make the timing of events consistent, and make events happen at the time they are supposed to happen.       

  • Incorrect: President Thomas goes to Iceland and accomplished nothing there.

The sentence says that President Thomas accomplished nothing in Iceland before he actually goes there. The sentence must be revised.

  • Correct: President Thomas went to Iceland and accomplished nothing there.

Error: Shifting Tenses in a Paragraph

Do not unnecessarily shift tense in a paragraph.

  • Incorrect: Learning about computers is like learning about anything else. First, a person looks at the instructions. Second, he has sat down to the machine and become familiar with it. Third, he will try to use the instructions to get the machine to work for him. Once he accomplished this, he is on his way to becoming computer literate.

The paragraph needs to be rewritten to eliminate the shifts in tense.

  • Correct: Learning about computers is like learning about anything else. First, a person looks at the instructions. Second, he sits down at the machine and becomes familiar with it. Third, he tries to use the instructions to get the machine to work for him. Once he has accomplished this, he will be on his way to becoming computer literate.
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