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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tip Thursday: Verb Tenses

I’ve been working with my son on verb tenses and I realized how confusing it could get, so I decided to do a post on verb tense.

Verb Tense

Verb tenses give a hint to the reader when your story took place (i.e.  past, present, future.  Futurue will probably only take place in dialogue.  I can’t imagine writing an entire story in future tense.  :D) 

Most stories are written in past tense, but some recent stories have been written in present tense (my latest for example.  Hunger Games trilogy for a better example.)  It’s important to learn tenses because you must stick to the same tense for the entire story.  The only exceptions are: internal thoughts and dialogue are written in present tense, even if you’re in past. And flashbacks are allowed to be in past tense during a present tense story (though it can pull your reader out if you don’t have a good transition.)

Types of Verb Tenses:
  • Present Tense
  • Present Continous Tense
  • Past Tense
  • Past Participle Tense
  • Future Tense

Present tense shows an action is taking place now (i.e. the present), but does not say when the action(s) will end.


We go to the store.

They study at the university.

You usually use present tense to discuss a book, poem, or an essay for review, even if written in past tense.


Bella is not happy when she moves from Arizona to Washington state in Twilight.

Present continuous tense shows something is happening in the present, but will have a definite end.


We are going to the store now.

They are studying at the university.


The past tense shows that something was completed in the past.


We went to the store yesterday.

They studied at the university in 1980.


Past participle tense shows something was done in the past before another action takes place. Usually, past participle and past tense are used in the same sentence.

We had gone to the store when she arrived.

They had studied at the university before they found jobs.


The future tense shows something will happen in the future.   (Usually only used in dialogue, but I mention it, because it’s important to remain consistent in your tenses, even in dialogue.)

We will go to the store later today.
They will study at the university in the coming September.