Posted by: episystechpubs | May 31, 2018

Editor’s Corner: A Tense Lesson That Won’t Make You Tense

There is a common mistake people make in relation to “tense” (past, present, or future) in a sentence. This mistake occurs when a sentence is written about something that happened in the past, but it involves something that remains true or important in the present. In cases like this, people make the mistake of making all verbs in the sentence past tense, but that’s not always the right thing to do.

Each verb in a sentence should reflect the tense that is appropriate for the specific phrase. I think an example will help.

The tense of one of the verbs in the following sentence is incorrect:

  • The industry has grown quickly and has made valiant efforts to ensure that individual companies had a firm financial strategy in place.

The incorrect verb in that sentence is had. The goal of the industry is to ensure that companies continue to have a firm financial strategy. The goal is ongoing. So even though the industry has already “made valiant efforts,” they still have a firm financial strategy. The correct verb is have.

  • The industry has grown quickly and has made a valiant effort to ensure that individual companies have a firm financial strategy in place.

Let’s look at another sentence with another incorrect verb:

  • They spent all their lottery winnings without realizing what was involved in good financial planning.

The incorrect verb in this sentence is was. Good financial planning continues to be necessary. It didn’t stop being important. So, even though spent is a past tense verb, the verb was should be changed to is.

  • They spent all their lottery winnings without realizing what is involved in good financial planning.

Even when you’re talking about something that already happened, if you’re including information that is ongoing or that is still true, you need to use present tense when it is appropriate.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432


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