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Maggie
Question about tense I always get confused about choosing the right tense when writing. For example in this sentence, "He told me he was always fond of the movie." Shall I use "was" or "is"? Obviously he still likes the movie, is the past tense used here correct? Also, if I retell a story of a book writing about things in the past, like Jane Austen's novels, do I have to use the past tense to tell, because I sometimes see people retell a story like this using present tense. I was wondering what is the correct way? Thank you~
Oct 6, 2016 12:12 PM
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Answers · 2
"Obviously he still likes the movie..." no, you don't even need to think about this. You are reporting what you understood at that point in the past, so you stay with past tenses. Jumping between tenses (past-present) without warning sounds very strange in English. If you TELL a story, you normally use past tense. However, if you TALK ABOUT a story, you use present tenses because you're looking at the story from a wider, overall perspective. It is also possible to use present tense to narrate a story, but this is for dramatic purposes: the listener/reader experiences the story as if it were happening now.
October 6, 2016
Technically, if he still likes the movie, then it should be "He told me that he had always been fond of the movie." The sentence as it's written in your post indicates something more in the past. That is, either he doesn't like it anymore or he's emphasizing that he liked it in the past. As for the question of retelling a novel/story/etc., a lot of that depends on the situation and work in particular, as well as the goal of the author and the goal of the person retelling it.
October 6, 2016
Maggie
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), Chinese (Cantonese), English, Japanese
Learning Language
English, Japanese