We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.
This statement appeared in our local newspaper recently: Louisiana Tech’s bulldog mascot dies of heatstroke after worker left him outside. This sort of mixing of tenses drives me up a wall.
My favorite television show of recent years has been The Closer. I love the show, and I particularly love the way Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson (Kyra Sedgwick) thinks her way through all the twists in the clues that have the rest of those around her lost in a fog. I hate the fact that this week’s episode was the last we’ll get to see of this great series.
That said, the dialog in the show frequently makes me want to scream. They’ll say something like, “He came in through the window and takes her and throws her against a wall.” Really? He entered past tense and proceeds to do things present tense.
This must result from the ignorance of the writers and not the actors, because all of them do it. I really don’t understand such glaring grammatical errors as this.
You don’t change tenses of the verbs you use in the same paragraph—much less in the same sentence. This seems so simple, but I see it violated all the time.
Our newspaper statement could have said, Louisiana Tech’s bulldog mascot dies of heatstroke after worker leaves him outside. No one would have a problem with that. Or it could have said, Louisiana Tech’s bulldog mascot died of heatstroke after worker left him outside. That would also be grammatically correct, although if it was a headline or sub-headline (I don’t remember whether it was or not) the editor probably would want it in present tense.
Remember, we must use whatever tense we start in throughout a paragraph. My father used to say, “You can’t change horses in the middle of the stream.” That same principle applies to verb tenses. We need to be consistent.
What are your pet peeves among grammatical errors? What points of grammar bother you because you’re not sure what is correct? Let me know, and I’ll try to address them.
For more information about his book, click the “Heaven Sent” tag above.
Contact him at email@example.com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx