Why is it important to keep verb tense consistent in an essay

All of the action in the passage above occurred in the past, so all of the verbs there should be in the past tense.


  • 13.3 Verb Tense;
  • Consistency of Tense and Pronoun Reference?
  • Maintaining Consistent Verb Tense?
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Choose the specific tense to be used in the essay, paper, or report and then coordinate all other verbs with it. Sometimes in academic writing, it is necessary to signal to the reader that one event was completed in the past before another past event occurred. The phrase " by the time " signals that the action in the second clause occurred before the action in the first clause. This kind of signal helps the reader follow any shifts in time. When discussing a specific essay or piece of literature , use the present tense throughout the paper.

To eliminate illogical shifts in tenses, the writer should choose the specific tense to be used in the essay and then coordinate all other verbs with it to reflect future and past events in relation to the chosen tense. The passage above is full of illogical shifts from the past tense to the present and the future.

Since most actions happened in the past, we need to make the verb forms consistent. Take Quiz. Next Topic. Toggle Main Navigation Main Navigation. Topics Grammar Punctuation Organization Style. Glossary Useful Links References. Effective Writing Practices Tutorial Grammar Inconsistent Verb Tenses Inconsistent Verb Tenses In formal writing, it is important to keep verb tenses consistent so that readers can follow the progress of ideas and arguments easily.

Incorrect: Elizabeth Peabody was born in a school and thereafter felt destined to be a teacher. Her mother was a teacher and trains her daughters at her side. The academic life seems to suit Elizabeth, who thrived on the rigorous curriculum. Rule to Remember Choose the specific tense to be used in the essay, paper, or report and then coordinate all other verbs with it.

Count and Noncount Nouns. Definite and Indefinite Articles. Pronouns Learning Objectives. Types of Pronouns Tip. Common Pronoun Errors. Relative Pronouns Tip.

Verb Tense – Writing for Success

Verb Tenses Learning Objectives. Simple Verb Tenses. Perfect Verb Tenses. Progressive Verb Tenses. Modal Auxiliaries Learning Objectives. Modal Auxiliaries Tip. Modals and Present Perfect Verbs.


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Prepositions Learning Objectives. In, At, and On.

Beware the shifting tense

Prepositions after Verbs Tip. Prepositions after Adjectives. Slang and Idioms Learning Objectives. Identifying Common Academic Purposes. Summary Paragraphs. Analysis Paragraphs. Synthesis Paragraphs. Evaluation Paragraphs Tip. Exercise 6. Identifying the Audience Tip. Selecting an Appropriate Tone. Choosing Appropriate, Interesting Content.

Developing a Topic Sentence Tip. Main Idea versus Controlling Idea. Characteristics of a Good Topic Sentence. Identifying Parts of a Paragraph. Implied Topic Sentences Tip. Supporting Sentences Tip. Concluding Sentences. Writing Paragraphs: End-of-Chapter Exercises.

Sentence Variety Learning Objectives. Incorporating Sentence Variety Tip. Exercise 7.

Using Sentence Variety at the Beginning of Sentences. Starting a Sentence with an Adverb Tip. Starting a Sentence by Inverting Subject and Verb. Connecting Ideas to Increase Sentence Variety.

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Joining Ideas Using an -ing Modifier. Dangling Modifiers. Joining Ideas Using an -Modifier. Joining Ideas Using an Appositive. Coordination and Subordination Learning Objectives. Conjunctive Adverbs. Subordination Tip. Subordinating Conjunctions. Parallelism Learning Objectives.

Using Parallelism Tip.

Creating Parallelism Using Coordinating Conjunctions. Creating Parallelism Using or As.