Verb Tense Shifts - FSW Writing Center

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Verb Tense Shifts
Verb tenses tell the reader when the action is happening…now (present tense), before now (past tense)
or later (future tense). These are simple verb tenses.
Progressive, perfect, and perfect progressive forms of the simple verb tenses represent more complex
aspects of time.
Progressive forms represent continuing action.
Perfect forms represent action that has been finished before another action begins.
Perfect Progressive forms show actions that continue up to some point.
Simple
Progressive
Perfect
Perfect Progressive
Past
She wrote
She was writing
She had written
She had been writing
Present
She writes
She is writing
She has written
She has been writing
Future
She will write
She will be writing
She will have written
She will have been
writing
Examples:
Present Tense:
Simple: She writes in her journal every day. (happening now or happening consistently)
Progressive: She is writing in her journal right now. (happening in the present)
Perfect: She has written twelve pages so far. (begun in the past, and either completed
or ongoing in the present.)
Perfect Progressive: She has been writing for three hours. (action begun in the past and
continuing into the present.)
Past Tense:
Simple: She wrote in her journal yesterday.
Progressive: She was writing in her journal when the phone rang.
Perfect: She had written twelve pages before she received the dreaded phone call.
Perfect Progressive: She had been writing in her journal until the phone rang.
Future Tense:
Simple: She will write in her journal tomorrow.
Progressive: She will be writing in her journal for the rest of her life.
Perfect: In five years, she will have written 1000 pages.
Perfect Progressive: In July, she will have been writing in her journal for ten years.
Unnecessary shifts in verb tense often confuse the reader.
For example:
Sandy was watching (past progressive) TV. Then she makes (present) popcorn.
When editing your own papers, be sure to check every verb to make sure that you haven’t shifted from
one time period to another.
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