I was writing a comment that briefly describes what a function actually does in my source code, and stumbled upon a grammar question below.

This function verifies whether the data is abiding by the pre-defined format.

I felt somewhat awkward to write the idiom abide by in present continuous tense, but I also thought writing it in simple present tense is as weird. Which one is more preferred tense that I should take when it comes to a whether clause?

1 Answer 1


"Abide by" has a connotation of intent, so a better phrase might be "adhere to". I will use "adhere" in the rest of my answer.

With respect to the present tense versus the present progressive construction, the choice depends on the context. Either construction would work, but the choice could be made to emphasize specific behavior. If your code determines whether the data currently fit the predefined format at the time the code performs the check, but the format may not be static, then present the progressive might be a better choice.

whether the data are adhering to the predefined format

If the data format is static, and the code determines whether the data generally fit the predefined format now, previously, and in the foreseeable future, then simple present tense works best.

whether the data adhere to the predefined format

Note that "data" is technically plural (the plural of datum), although many people treat it as a collective singular noun. I used plural verbs in my examples to adhere to the more formal definition of "data" that is used by most academics.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .