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Verb Tense Consistency

Verb Tense Consistency

Author: Mackenzie W

Demonstrate an understanding of verb tense consistency.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hi, everyone. I'm Mackenzie, and today we're learning about verb tense consistency. Did you know that you can indicate time in your writing without ever once mentioning minutes, hours, or days? In this tutorial, we'll learn about the definition of verb tense consistency. We'll practice using verb tense consistency, and we'll discuss irregular verbs.

We'll begin by discussing the definition of verb tense. A verb is a word that defines some sort of action or state of being. And the tense indicates the time at which the action is taking place. Some of the most common types of verb tense include past tense, in which something happened previously; present tense-- something is happening currently; or future tense-- something is going to happen in the future.

When we have a piece of writing, it's important that all of the verbs match. We call this verb tense consistency. If one verb is in past tense, the rest of them should be in past tense.

The only exception to this could be if you are indicating a change of time on purpose. For example, if I say, "the party was a success, and now the kitchen is a mess." But most of the time, we need to make sure that the verbs are the same tense. Otherwise the reader gets confused.

The same thing is true for an overall piece of writing. Throughout the entire piece of writing, unless we've made a conscious choice not to, we need to make sure that the verbs are all in the same tense.

Oftentimes authors make this mistake because they don't realize they're switching verb tense. They switch from past tense to present tense to future tense or some other form of tense without realizing it. It's important for us to recognize what tense we're writing in so that we don't make this mistake.

We are now going to look at some examples to help us to identify verb tense inconsistency and how to correct the problem. Our first example reads-- "we visited my aunt and uncle's farm and eat apples from their apple orchard." Our first verb is "visited," and it is in past tense. Our second verb is "eat," and it isn't present tense.

We have to decide from the context of the sentence which of these verbs to change so that they match one another so that there's verb tense consistency. In this case, we'll change the word "eat" to the word "ate" so that everything is in past tense.

Here's another example. "The apples taste sweet, so we saved a few and used them to make apple pie." We actually have three verbs in this example-- "taste," "saved," and "used." Because "saved" and "used" are both past tense, that indicates that "taste" should also be past tense. Currently it's present tense. We need to change it to "tasted" so that it matches the rest of the sentence.

And our third example-- "we even have ice cream with the apple pie, which was delicious." Our two verbs here are "have" and "was." "Was" is past tense. Let's change "have" to "had" so that everything matches in past tense.

These examples showed us how to correct verb tense inconsistency so that all of the verbs in a sentence match. But there are some instances in which the verbs should not match. Let's take a look at those.

Our first example reads, "our professor returned our grades, so I plan to studied for the next test later tonight." There are two different verb tenses that we need to use in this example. The first part of the sentence, the first clause, is in past tense. And that's why the verb says "returned."

The next clause reads, "so I plan to studied." We have the verb "plan," which is in present tense. And then we say "to studied." It doesn't make sense. "To" indicates that it should be future tense. And that makes sense within the context of the sentence. It should read, "so I plan to study for the next test later tonight."

Our next example reads, "I often review the textbook, but don't score very well on the last test." The first clause of the sentence is in present tense. "Review" is present tense-- "I often review."

The second clause should be in past tense. And the reason we know that is because it's discussing the last test, something that happened in the past. However, it's written as though it is in present tense, just like the first part of the sentence.

We have the word "don't," the contraction that means do not, but it doesn't make sense within the context-- "I don't score very well on that last test." We know that the last test was in the past. And this means that the verb should be past tense-- "I didn't score very well."

Our last example reads, "the week before I took that test, I didn't sleep very much, so now I rested before I take a test." The first part of the sentence is in past tense. And we know this because it's describing the week before-- something that already happened in the past. The verb here-- "didn't" or did not-- also in past tense.

The problem is the second part of the sentence that says "so now I rested more." "Rested" is in past tense, just like the rest of the sentence, but it shouldn't be because we know that this part of the sentence is in present tense. The author is describing something that's happening now in the present. So that means that "rested" should now become "rest." These examples help us to identify when verb tense should be consistent and should change based on the context of the sentence.

When thinking about verb tense, it's important for us to recognize that some verbs are irregular. And what this means is that they don't follow a standard pattern for different types of verb tenses.

Oftentimes, the past tense won't end in the letters "ED," and that confuses some people. Some of these examples include the verbs "think," "come," "say," "drive," "choose," "bring," "go," "get," "rise," "see," "make," "take," and "write." The past tense of these is irregular. This can be confusing.

It's important for us to know how to use irregular verbs. If you're not sure what the proper tense of a certain verb is, make sure you find out. Look up the information so that you're using irregular verbs properly.

In this tutorial, we learned about the definition of verb tense consistency. We practiced using verb tense consistency, and we discussed irregular verbs. Verbs help us to tell time. I'm Mackenzie. Thanks for listening.

Terms to Know
Irregular Verb

A verb that does not follow the standard pattern for verb formation.


Indication of the time in which something occurred.


A word that defines actions or indicates a state of being.