🏁 Make sure that if you start off a story in the past tense, you stay in it!
Here’s an example where the writer got confused and mixed things up between past and present:
I went to the back of the shop to find a way out but the door was locked, so I had to jump through the open window. I run to the corner but the gang follows me, so I climb up the drainpipe into the next door garden and hide.
You can see that although the first sentence is in the past tense, the rest goes into the present and stays there, as the writer gets caught up in describing an action scene. It should of course have read:
I went to the back of the shop to find a way out but the door was locked, so I had to jump through the open window. I ran to the corner but the gang followed me, so I climbed up the drainpipe into the next door garden and hid.
🔆 If you get this one now, go to Skill 32.
🎯 💻 Want to try a test?
To help you sort out which sentence needs which, try this quiz. You’ll have to read the whole sentence to work out if something is happening now (use the present) or something has already happened (use the past):
🛠 If you need more advice and exercises, read on.
Getting confused over tenses is very common when people write stories, especially if they leave them for a while and then go back to them. Even if they’ve started in the past tense, which is the easiest way to write a story, if they get distracted or take a break they’ll often start writing in the present tense, especially if they’re trying to include a bit of action in the storyline and they get carried away.
You need to keep bearing in mind that everything you may write in a story like this takes place in the past, so you have to keep all your verb endings in the past.
🚦Time for more?
Switching tenses when you didn’t mean to can cost you marks in tests on your writing skills, so it’s something you definitely need to be confident about. Always re-read your work and try to pinpoint the verbs, and ask yourself if you’ve written each of them in the right way!