Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Vagaries of (Verb) Tense Consistency

Another fantastic list from The Writer's Resource, this time on verb tense consistency.  Their post today on Maintaining Verb Consistency In Your Story in your story is a list of six links (including 3 by university publications) on that most complex of the writer's nemesis--the verb tense.  The links take you to both recent and not-so-recent posts, and they range from the basic (what's present tense?) to the more nuanced (when to change tenses, for example).

In the online writers' group I joined earlier this year there's been ongoing discussion on the proper usage of verb tenses, especially the subjunctive (which apparently some people tend to ignore or maul unforgivably) and the past perfect (I'd been in the house for five hours before he arrived).  Sometimes a refresher or a quick reference guide on these comes in handy.

Just for fun, which of these sentences sound "righter" to your ear?

- She asked that she not be disturbed until after the performance.
- She asked not to be disturbed until the performance was finished.

- He'd been in my life for such a long time that I no longer remembered how we'd met.
- He was in my life for such a long time that I no longer remembered how we met.

Hope this resource comes in handy!

1 comment :

  1. I found your blog through a comment on Writer Unboxed, and given my background in linguistics, I was delighted to see this post first! And you've turned me on to another great blog in the process.

    The subjunctive is disappearing from the English language. It makes me sad on a prescriptive level, but it's also interesting to witness language change happening in my lifetime. And it seems we don't really teach much of the past or future perfect anymore. I'm glad these guides are available.


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