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Centre for Learning and Study Support (CLaSS): Grammar Toolkit/Is the tense correct?

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Verbs 1

Is the tense correct?

Often there are no precise rules on which tense is correct. Native and non-native speakers often get a feel for the ways in which tenses are used. Tenses show the relationship between a subject’s actions and time.

How are tenses formed?

Tense is created by using a speciļ¬c auxiliary verb AND the verb ending IN COMBINATION. The table below illustrates the four main tenses that are used in academic writing.

 

When do I use a progressive form

(is filming, has been filming)?

Progressive forms can be used in combination with all of the tenses above to show that an action is still in progress:

 

Common uses of tenses in academic writing

♦Present Simple and Present Perfect

  • Use Present Simple for general statements:

Halls (2003) argues that…
According to Jackson et al. (2011, p.23), students prefer

 

  • Both Present Simple and Present Perfect can be used to show that findings of past research are currently valid:

While Jones, Parks and Johnson (2013) identified high levels of caffeine consumption among students, more recent work by Hills (2016) shows/has shown that…

♦Past Simple

  • Use Past Simple to refer to actions that occurred in the past, or to indicate that research findings have been superseded by more updated research:

Jones and Keran (2012) conducted an investigation into the food preferences of university students. They found that…
While Jones, Parks and Johnson (2013) identified high levels of caffeine consumption among students, more recent work by Hills (2016) shows/has shown that…

♦Future Simple

  • Use Future Simple for actions that are certain to occur in the future, for example when describing the functions of equipment or formal procedures:

When the valve is closed, the pressure will increase
After the interview, the candidates will be offered the opportunity to ask questions.

Consistency

It is important that in your writing your verb tenses are consistent and reflect a logical progression of events or actions. Within a sentence the tenses must match, and within a paragraph there must be a logical sequence from sentence to sentence.

Use of tenses in the different sections of your assignment

While there are no rigid rules, certain tenses may be more appropriate for different sections of your assignment:

Tense checklist

Library Resources

Further resources

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

  • English Page Introductory-level explanations of all tenses in English with examples and self-assessment

  • Tenses in Academic Writing-(University of Hull ) brief explanation followed by short quiz

  • Verb Machine game (British Council) can help you check and develop your knowledge of  English tenses

Downloads

Click the link below to download a PDF copy of the Tense checklist: