Sei sulla pagina 1di 2




Verbs Tense Consistency

The part of speech that indicates an action or state of being.


This indicates whether the verb describes an action or state of being

that is in the present, past, or future.


Being the same throughout; agreement among parts; uniformity.

To make sure your verbs are consistent, just check their tense (the time they refer to).
If you're writing in the past tense, for example, don't shift into the present unless you've
got a logical reason to do so. If you do, you may confuse your readers about when
something happened or something is happening--and you'll be having a problem with
consistency. Look at these examples:
1. When Peggy was a pup, she was so uncoordinated that she often falls down.
2. Big Dog barks at the moon, and Peggy crawled through the bushes.
In number 1, the first two verbs ("was") are in the past tense; the third ("falls") is in the
present. Why? There's no logical reason for the shift, so the tense is inconsistent. Change
"falls" to "fell" and you have no problem.
In number 2, the first verb ("barks") is in the present tense; the second (" crawled") is in
the past. Again, there is no logical reason for the shift. Switch "crawled" to "crawls," and
you're okay. (Obviously which verb or verbs you change will depend on the meaning of your
If you haven't noticed, the key to all this is logical reason. If you need to make a tense
shift for your ideas to make sense, then make it. If you write a sentence like, " I live in
Amarillo, but two years ago I lived in Atlanta."--there's nothing wrong. You're showing a
logical relation between the past and the present.



Strictly speaking, in English, only two tenses are marked in the verb alone, present (as in "he
sings") and past (as in "he sang"). Other English language tenses, as many as thirty of them, are
marked by other words called auxiliaries. Understanding the six basic tenses allows one to recreate much of the reality of time in his writing. The six are
Simple Present:
Present Perfect:
Simple Past:
Past Perfect:
Future Perfect:


have walked
had walked
will walk
will have walked

Problems in sequencing tenses usually occur with the perfect tenses, all of which
are formed by adding an auxiliary or auxiliaries to the past participle, the third
principal part.

ring, rang, rung

walk, walked, walked
The most common auxiliaries are forms of "be," "can," "do," "may," "must,"
"ought," "shall," "will," "has," "have," "had," and they are the forms we shall
use in this most basic discussion.

Check the following sentences for confusing shifts in tense. If the tense of each underlined verb
expresses the time relationship accurately, write S (satisfactory). If a shift in tense is not
appropriate, write U (unsatisfactory) and make necessary changes. In most cases with an
inappropriate shift, there is more than one way to correct the inconsistency. Reading the
sentences aloud will help you recognize differences in time.
___ 1. While Barbara puts in her contact lenses, the telephone rang.
___ 2. By the time negotiations began, many pessimists have expressed doubt about them.
___ 3.

After Capt. James Cook visited Alaska on his third voyage, he is killed by Hawaiian
islanders in 1779.

___ 4. I was terribly disappointed with my grade because I will study very hard.
___ 5. Everyone hopes the plan would work.
___ 6. Harry wants to show his friends the photos he took last summer.
___ 7. Scientists predict that the sun will die in the distant future.
___ 8. The boy insisted that he has paid for the candy bars.