Are You Using the Right Verb Tense?

By Grace Hamburger on Dec 4, 2019
eContent Pro
Are You Using the Right Verb Tense?

Some rules bend, some rules break, but grammar rules are historically rigid, especially in Academic work. There are three major verb tenses that research papers utilize: Present simple tense, past simple tense, and present perfect tense. Unlike narratives, Academic manuscripts can take on multiple verb tenses at once, depending on the subject matter. Even a single sentence can contain multiple verb tenses, and if you’re not careful, you can really trip yourself up. So how do you know what to use and where to use it? Luckily, eContent Pro has created a helpful guide.

The Present Simple Tense

In Academic writing, the present simple tense is what is commonly considered the default. Present simple tense is also used when making statements about current or previous research, as in information that we know right now. For example, you might say, “This is a very dangerous tool and requires an expert.” When you are referring to a previous study or want to draw the reader’s attention to something specific, like a figure or chart, you would use present simple tense. If you want a reader to look at a graph, you would write, “Table 2 presents this information.” This tense is very popular in introductions, or if you are outlining the framework of their paper and what you aim to achieve. When used in a narrative sense, this verbiage is appropriately called “Narrative present,” and describes how present simple tense can be used to tell a story or describe events.

The Past Simple Tense

When you are referring to actions that are completed in the past, you are using past simple tense. This tense is seen most often when you are referring to another researcher, like, “Smith recorded all of his data on a typewriter.” Past simple tense is also used when describing the methods of data collection for an experiment that has been completed, or when reporting the results of the current empirical study. You would say that, “Surveys were used to collect the information,” or “Surveys showed that 52% of people prefer dark chocolate.” In addition, if you are ever referring to something that happened in the past, data or otherwise, you would use past simple tense.

The Present Perfect Tense

Present perfect tense is almost a hybrid of present simple and past simple tenses. In short, if you are connecting the past and the present, you would use present perfect tense. In Academic work, it is used to describe previous research that is also relevant to present day findings. For example, you might write, “This method has proved to be stable.” This is also valid for when you are describing previous findings without directly referencing the original source material, like, “There has been evidence that this is false.” If you would like to smoothly transition into a new topic, you would use present perfect tense, which is often seen in opening sentences for new paragraphs.

Different subject matter has different coinciding verb tenses, and some documents can have multiple verb tenses going on at once. So how do you sort it all out? With the help of one of our professional English language copy editors, you can be sure that your manuscript is grammatically sound! Check out what eContent Pro can do for you!

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