Tensed from Tenses 3

A Writer's Reference with Writing about LiteratureReference: A Writer’s Reference with Writing about Literature

Tenses with infinitives and participles

Use Present Infinitive

Show action at the same time or later than the main verb

  • The club had hoped to have raised raise $1000 by May.
    (“have hoped” happened before “raise”)

Use Perfect Infinitive

For an action occurring earlier than the main verb

  • Dan would like to join have joined the navy but he did not pass the physical. (“like” is now, “join” was in the past)

Use Past/Present Perfect Participle

For an action occurring before the main verb

  • Discovered off the coast of FL., the Atocha yielded many treasures.
  • Having worked her way though college, Lee graduated debt-free.


Use base from of verb and were is the only past-tense verb used

IF + Contrary-to-fact clauses

The verbs are for conditions that are not true

  • If I was were a member of Congress, I’d vote for that bill.
  • We could be less cautious if Jake was were more trustworthy.

But when the IF clauses is about something that exist or may exist, then don’t use subjective.

  • If Dana wins the contest, she’ll leave for Spain in June.

Wishing + Contrary-to-fact clauses

  • Formal: I wish he were my friend.
  • Informal: I wish he was my friend.

Clauses for request

Because the requests haven’t come true, subjunctive is used. Look for verb like: ask, insist, recommend, request, suggest.

  • Prof. Moore insists that her students are be on time.
  • We recommend that he files file this report.

Tensed from Tenses 2

Writer's Digest Grammar Desk ReferenceTensed from Tenses 1 contains the basic info on tenses. This entry has special notes on verb usages. (Resources: Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference, A Writer’s Reference with Writing about Literature)

Present Tense

Habitual action

  • He eats a hearty breakfast.
  • I play tennis.

General truth / Scientific principles

Use present tense unless it has been disproved.A Writer's Reference with Writing about Literature

  • The US is in North America.
  • Galileo taught that the earth revolved revolves around the sun.

Fictional events

Use present tense when quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing the author of a nonliterary work, even when the author is dead.

  • In Ibuse’s Black Rain, a child reached reaches for a pomegranate in his mother’s garden…

Past Perfect Tense

Using simple past tense when past perfect should be used

  • By the time dinner was served, the guest honor left.
    By the time dinner was served, the guest honor had left.

Using past perfect when 2 past actions occurred at the same time.

  • When we got there, she had met us at the train.

Avoid Verb Shifts

Inconsistency in voice

Depending on the need, the sentence can be in passive or active voice, as long as the voice stays the same.

  • She lists each score in a cell then the students were sorted according to the scores.
    She lists each score in a cell then sorted the students according to the scores.

Between indirect and direct

For questions:

  • I wonder whether Karla knew of the theft and, if so, did she report it to the police?
    I wonder whether Karla knew of the theft and, if so, whether she reported to the police.

For quotation:
Direct quote repeats the speaker word by word when indirect quote doesn’t.

  • Mom said that she’d be late and please do not leave for the game until Dad comes home.
    Mom said that she’d be late and asked me not to leave for the game until Dad came home.

Tensed from Tenses 1

Sitting in the library, with The Deluxe Transitive Vampire opened to the Tense section, I attempted understand when to use which tense by making a chart.

That didn’t help me much but these resources did: Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference, A Writer’s Reference with Writing about Literature, and EnglishPage.com.Writer's Digest Grammar Desk Reference

I am going to post as I make senses of all tenses and my tensed brain will have some relief.

Simple Tenses

Present, past, future

Perfect Tenses

Expresses an action that was/will be completed at the time of another action
A Writer's Reference with Writing about Literature

Present perfect

Action/event that began at sometime in the past and extended into the present

  • I’ve worked there for 6 months.
  • I’ve often gone to the park. (I’ve visited and may go again)

Past perfect

Action/event completed in the past BEFORE some other past action/event, used to show relationship between 2 or more past events

  • Once I had gotten over the fight, I called to apologize.

Future perfect

Action/event that will be completed in the future before some other action/event

  • At 4 o’clock, I will have practiced for 2 hours.

Progressive Tenses

Describes actions in progress

Present perfect progressive

  • I have been working for the last hour. (from past until now)
  • How have you been doing? (without duration, meaning time = recently, lately)

Past perfect progressive

Something started in past and continued up until another time in the past

  • I had been working late that night.
  • He had been partying before he came to the first class.

Future perfect progressive

Something has started and will end in a future time.

  • I will have been working 40 years come next spring.

Present progressive

Past progressive

Future progressive

Is Being Passive All Bad?

While my head was still working through what verb tense to use when, I encountered the “Voice” section in The Deluxe Transitive Vampire. Then a light bulb went on above my head.

The passive voice is appropriate when the action rather than the actor is to be emphasized.

  • The grandee bullied the bum. (Active)
  • The bum was bullied by the grandee. (Passive)

In this example, the passive voice also leads the readers to side with the bum.

But the author cautioned that we don’t overwork it.

  • The book was thrown at me by them.

In another case, when the actor is unknown or unimportant, passive voice can also be used.

  • She was left alone for a while.
  • The shoes were all repaired came the next morning.

I seem to remember being told to use active voice but it looks like I’ll have to pay more attention about that in the fictions I read.

Grammar and Tense Edited

Learning from my mistakes, one at the time.

Misplaced modifier
Clauses modify the noun closest to the comma. In this sentence, he is confued not “the comforting smell.”

  • Though confused at first, the comforting smell of the dungeon and coolness of the air settled his nerves.
    Though confused at first, he found that the comforting smell of the dungeon and coolness of the air settled his nerves.

In this one, the vegetables can’t scratch his head

  • He eyed her plate of stir-fried vegetables, scratching his head.
    Scratching his head, he eyed her plate of stir-fried vegetables.

Verbs and Tenses

  • She watched him inhaled…
    She watched him inhale
  • He heard someone came running.
    He heard someone come running

Bad spelling

  • snake is not a good snack
  • a steak tastes better than a stake

Tend to use too many “then”
Replace it with “and” or to start a sentence. (might a habit from the old programming days)

  • Then from his nightstand…
  • From his nightstand…