Verb Tense Consistency
Verb tense indicates the time of the verb: past, present, or future, illustrating when an action takes place:
After I get the call from the school (present), I will call my parents (future).
When you write a paragraph, you need to be particularly careful to pay attention to the verb tenses throughout the entire paragraph. Unnecessary shifts in verb tenses can cause confusion.
I jumped when I heard the door slam. I run to the window to see if there were any cars outside. I stood frozen in the room, wondering what to do, so I fly up the stairs.
Suddenly, as we were running toward the end zone, a huge dog jumps in front of the quarterback.
Dr. Eggleston was talking to the students about statistical analysis. She frowns when a loud hammering suddenly drowned out her voice.
Of course, there are occasions where it is necessary to shift tenses, however, but just make sure you have a specific reason for doing so:
Students today remember very little about the Challenger explosion other than the films they watched in grade school.
Read the following paragraph, paying attention to the highlighted verbs. Change any verbs which are not consistent:
I used to think I want to major in biology. After taking a biology class my first semester, however, I realize that perhaps biology was not for me. I decided not to worry about it and to just take classes that fulfilled my core requirements. I took a journalism class and I loved it. I have decided to major in journalism, and I felt confident that this is the right decision.
Compare the paragraph above to the corrected version below:
I used to think I wanted to major in biology. After taking a biology class my first semester, however, I realized that perhaps biology was not for me. I decided not to worry about it and to just take classes that fulfilled my core requirements. I took a journalism class and I loved it. I have decided to major in journalism, and I feel confident that this is the right decision.
Verb Tense Consistency Exercise
Do any of the verbs need to be changed in the following paragraphs?
1. Getting used to living in the dorms can be hard for some students, particularly if they have never had to share a room with someone else. If you want to make your transition as easy as possible, you should consider talking to your roommate about the things you wanted from your living situation. Deciding on how you will communicate your feelings to each other made it easier when problems arose.
2. Going to a concert can be dangerous these days. I went to Woodstock this past summer and I saw two people seriously hurt in the mosh pit where everyone dance. I saw one girl fall down and when I ran over to her to see if she needed help, she says, "I think I've twisted my ankle." I help her out of the crowd and over to a medical tent. I was glad I had seen her fall or she could have been crushed.
3. Last night, I went to Ames Cafeteria to see the comedian. It is very exciting, and he was really funny. I just wish it start a little earlier than 10 p.m. I find it hard to stay out until midnight and then got up for an 8:00 class.
4. Working as a teacher's aid in Lebanon last year show me that I would like to be a teacher. The students always responded to me very well, and I had a lot of fun. One of my favorite students is Jeremy, a fourth-grader who had a stuttering problem. I really related to him because I stutter as a child as well. I think I really help Jeremy's self-confidence, and I hope he is continuing to work with the speech therapist.