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Past, Present or Future Tense?

Using proper verb tense can be tricky in academic documents because a writer typically discusses research that has been done (past tense), introduces research being done (present tense) and presents research that should/will be done (future tense) all within the same document. Yet, scholars have the responsibility to use a consistent verb tense as much as possible throughout a document.


As the example below illustrates, switching between two verb tenses can occur easily in one sentence!


Sentence: When a test VIOLATES measurement equivalence, it WILL RESULT in different scores for the targeted populations.


Edited Sentence: When a test VIOLATES measurement equivalence, it RESULTS in different scores for the targeted populations.


Explanation: Though a shift in verb tense is unavoidable at times, in many instances, changing verb tenses can and should be avoided, especially within the same sentence.

In the initial sentence above, the first verb is placed in present tense (“violates”) while the second verb is placed in future tense (“will result”). This shift in verb tense is unwarranted. Therefore, the second verb is changed to the present tense (“results”) in the edited sentence.


When writing, do your best to use a consistent verb tense within a single sentence and paragraph.


Until next Tuesday, happy writing!!! Dr. V

Writing Coach-Editor-Speaker-Author


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