4

Could you guys tell me what verb tenses should be used when discussing about the chronological order of events in a literary work such as a comic book.

Chapter 3, released this week :

Fatman admits to Candy Boy that Nurse Joy is stronger than himself.

Chapter 2, released last week :

Nurse Joy defeats Fatman in Chocolate City.

The grammar resources that I have consulted recommend using present tense or present perfect.

Fatman admits to Candy Boy that Nurse Joy is stronger than himself because she has defeated him in Chocolate City.

But why do some people at the comic message boards that I frequent use present and past tense :

Fatman admits to Candy Boy that Nurse Joy is stronger than himself because she defeated him in Chocolate City.

  • This seems to be asking for writing advice, and as such according to help, it probably belongs on Writers.SE, or possibly English Language & Usage. – Flimzy Oct 24 '13 at 22:55
  • 2
    It's a fine question for ELL. What tense is relevant in a particular linguistic situation can be difficult for learners to know. – snailcar Oct 24 '13 at 23:09
  • 1
    I can't explain why (hence comment, not answer), but I wouldn't use the present perfect with a definite, named event. So "She has defeated him before" is fine, but "She has defeated him in Chocolate City" just doesn't work. – Martha Oct 25 '13 at 1:16
1

First off, englishlearner01, you are absolutely right about using the present tense when discussing events in a literary work, including a comic book. And it goes beyond events. For example, if you are talking about a character's state of mind:

Fatman envies Candy Boy but admires Nurse Joy

(Just a made up example, I have no idea who these characters are LOL).

Now, as to why you see a mixture of tenses, that has to do with the way English handles time in complex sentences.

Fatman admits to Candy Boy that Nurse Joy eats 25 hot dogs every day.

Fatman admits to Candy Boy that Nurse Joy is eating 25 hot dogs that day.

Fatman admits to Candy Boy that Nurse Joy ate twenty-five hot dogs the previous day.

Fatman admits to Candy Boy that Nurse Joy told him (Fatman) that Candy Boy had lied to him several days earlier.

I don't want to drive you crazy with a detailed explanation of every example, but see how the time of the event in the subordinate clause relative to that of the main clause requires you to vary the tense? And if you have an event before another event that's already in the past, you may need to have three different tenses, as in the last example.

Does that help?

0

The difference between "she has defeated him" and "she defeated him" is rather subtle, and either would usually be fine. "She defeated him" seems stronger to me because it seems to refer to a definitive occasion. "I have defeated the strongest player in my local chess club" (but only once; he has defeated me lots of times). "I defeated the strongest player in my local chess club to win the trophy" (I did it when it mattered!)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.