Shifts in Verb Tense

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Shifts in Verb Tense
NEC FACET Center
What is a verb?
A verb is one of the
basic parts of
speech.
 Verbs commonly
identify the action
performed by the
subject of the
sentence.

kick
jump
study
Find the Verbs
Wendy plays the French horn in her
school orchestra.
 Garfield dived into the dish of lasagna.
 Billows of smoke began to rise skyward.
 The defendant smirked at the judge.
 The average snowfall in these mountains
leaves an accumulation of two new feet
of powder.

Find the Verbs
Wendy plays the French horn in her
school orchestra.
 Garfield dived into the dish of lasagna.
 Billows of smoke began to rise skyward.
 The defendant smirked at the judge.
 The average snowfall in these
mountains leaves an accumulation of
two new feet of powder.

What else can a verb do?
Not all verbs show action.
 Verbs also indicate “state of being.”
 We refer to many of the state of being
verbs as the “to be” verbs

Examples of “To Be” Verbs
Was
Am
Are
Is
May be
Has been
Had been
Will be
Were
Would be
Might be
All verbs have a tense.
Verb tense
indicates time.
 Verbs can show
past, present, and
future and can
also indicate ongoing actions.

What is
tense?
Examples of Tense with
Action Verbs
Dance
(present)
Danced
(past)
Will dance
(future)
Additional Examples with
Action Verbs
Present Perfect:
has panicked
Past Perfect:
had panicked
Future Perfect:
will have panicked
Examples of Tense with “To
Be” Verbs



Present: The antibiotic is
effective.
Past: The antibiotic was
effective.
Future: The antibiotic will
be effective.
Recognizing Tense

Although most people do not need to know
the names of the more complex verb tenses,
recognizing they exist and seeing the
differences in their meaning will help writers
avoid writing problems.
Additional Examples


Present Perfect: The
antibiotic has been
effective, and the patient is
now well.
Shows an action that
started in the past and is
continuing into the present.
Additional Examples


Past Perfect: The
antibiotic had been effective
by the time the semester
started.
Shows an action that was
completed before another
past action (before school
started)
Additional Examples


Future Perfect: The
antibiotic will have been
effective before the
semester starts.
Shows an action that will
have taken place before
another action yet to come.
Reminder
Remember you don’t need to know all
the tense names, but you should learn
to recognize inconsistent use of these
tenses.
 We call this inconsistent verb use an
unnecessary “shift in tense” and
consider it an error.

Changing Tenses

Do not change verb tense in your
writing unless you must do so to show a
change in time.
March
A Justified Tense Shift
This afternoon I will see
one new movie. Last
week I saw two new
movies.
 Shifting from future
tense to past tense
reflects the changing
viewing times.

Unjustified Tense Shift
We walk down
Greenwood as the
jazz bands began to
play.
 Can you identify the
shift in tense?

Unjustified Tense Shift
We walk down
Greenwood as the
jazz bands began to
play.
 Walk = present tense
 began = past tense

The Shift Corrected
We walk down
Greenwood as the
jazz bands begin to
play. (present tense)
 We walked down
Greenwood as the
jazz bands began to
play. (past tense)

Look for the Tense Shift

Steam rose from the
coffee mug. Charlie
snatches his hand away
as the sides of the mug
become even hotter.
The Tense Shift


Steam rose from the coffee
mug. Charlie snatches his
hand away as the sides of the
mug become even hotter.
These two words shift from
past tense used in the rest of
the passage to present tense.
The Tense Shift Revised


Steam rose from the coffee
snatched
mug. Charlie snatches his
hand away as the sides of the
became
mug become even hotter.
These two words shift from
past tense used in the rest of
the passage to present tense.
Look for the Tense Shift

As Mary looks for a
knife in the kitchen,
Larry blows out the
candles and ran his
finger through the
frosting.
The Tense Shift


As Mary looks for a knife in
the kitchen, Larry blows out
the candles and ran his
finger through the frosting.
This verb shifts from
present tense used in most
of the passage to past
tense.
The Tense Shift Revised


As Mary looks for a knife in
the kitchen, Larry blows out
the candles andruns
ran his
finger through the frosting.
This verb shifts from
present tense used in most
of the passage to past
tense.
Look for the Tense Shift

Dana swabbed the
inside of her cheek
with a Q-tip, smears
the cells on a glass
slide, and then looked
at them through the
microscope.
The Tense Shift Revised

Dana swabbed the
inside of her cheek
smeared
with a Q-tip, smears
the cells on a glass
slide, and then looked
at them through the
microscope.
Look for the Tense Shift

In the neighborhood, the kids play stickball
in the street, they sawed off broom handles
for bats and borrow garbage can lids for
bases.
The Tense Shift

In the neighborhood, the kids play stickball
in the street; they sawed off broom handles
for bats, and borrow garbage can lids for
bases.
Look for the Tense Shift

To get a clear
picture, Larry jiggles
the tuning knob,
adjusts the horizontal
hold, and pointed the
antenna out the
window.
The Tense Shift

To get a clear
picture, Larry jiggles
the tuning knob,
adjusts the horizontal
s
hold, and pointed the
antenna out the
window.
Look for Tense Shifts

When Tronic Center had a clearance sale, Eric
decided to buy a DVR. He thought he could simply
plug the machine in and start recording his favorite
programs. However, when he drove home, he
discovers that connecting the dVR could be
complicated and confusing. The directions
seemed to have been written for an electrical
engineer. After three hours of frustration, Eric
gave up and calls a TV repair shop for help.
The Tense Shifts


When Tronic Center had a clearance sale, Eric
decided to buy a DVR. He thought he could simply
plug the machine in and start taping his favorite
programs. However, when he drove home, he
discovers that connecting the DVR could be
complicated and confusing. The directions seemed
to have been written for an electrical engineer. After
three hours of frustration, Eric gave up and calls a
TV repair shop for help.
These 2 words shift from past to present tense.
Remember . . .
When you cut out inconsistent verbs,
you eliminate possible confusion and
make your writing smoother.

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