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While introducing someone if I Use past tense sentence is it correct to say or not?

a) I joined this company in the year 2005.

Reason being I am asking this question is because this is fact which I am telling and to tell fact we use Present tense. So can we use present tense also?

b) I join this company in the year 2005.

Similarly,

If I clear the exam and want to tell this to my parents.

a) I cleared the Exam. (Past Tense)

b) I clear the Exam (Present Tense)

Which one is the correct Tense to describe fact?

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    I don't know about other dialects, but in British English we don't say anyone clears exams. You finish them, or pass them, or ace them, but don't clear them. I'm pretty sure the same is true in American English. – SamBC Mar 19 at 13:52
  • I can't vote to close this because of the open bounty. – Michael Harvey Apr 1 at 18:54
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+50

It is possible to use the Simple Present to retell a personal story or an important historical event. We use this construction in narratives and history books to make events seem more alive and real to our readers. This tense is known as the historical present, also called the historic present, dramatic present, and narrative present.

Here is one example that I made up:

At the age of twenty I join the army, I learn about medicine and sport and help the injured to become stronger, fitter and regain their self confidence. Three years later, in 1980, I follow my calling and leave the army to become a swimming instructor in the Netherlands...

Note that the above paragraph is firmly established in the past, I even included a specific date,1980.

Richard Nordquist, linguist and former English professor, provides the following example,

"There is a famous story of President Abraham Lincoln, taking a vote at a cabinet meeting on whether to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. All his cabinet secretaries vote nay, whereupon Lincoln raises his right hand and declares: 'The ayes have it.'"

That's not to say the historical present is always correct, it has to be used with discretion. If we look at the OP's examples we see they are short and devoid of further context, using the historical present would serve little purpose.

  1. I join Google in 2005. (HP)
  2. I joined Google in 2005. (SP)

Without further context, some listeners might dismiss the first sentence as being ungrammatical (it's not) but by adding another clause things improve.

  3. I pass my university exams and immediately join Google in 2005

Here is a similar version using the Simple Past

  4. I earned my degree and immediately joined Google in 2005

To sum up, it is far more common (and preferable) to use the Simple Past for events and short factual statements that happened in the past, see examples 2 and 4. However, the Historical Present is a useful rhetorical device (to be used sparingly) that can evoke immediacy and tension in a story, be it real or make believe.

  • In your own example of the 'historical present', you use a temporal adjunct denoting a specific past time (1980): ...in 1980, I follow my calling and leave the army.... But I don't think I've ever seen the historical present used along with a past temporal adjunct, although I don't see any reason for banning such a combination. Could you give me an attested example of the historical present being used along with a past-time adjunct? – JK2 Apr 3 at 3:37
  • @JK2 as you pointed out, I don't see a reason for never using a time reference with HP. And seeing as you are a linguist (I am not), you possess not only Huddlestone and Pallum's CGEL but you also have access to the OED, both of which I do not, so you could probably find a reference or disprove my example far more quickly than I ever could. Let me know! – Mari-Lou A Apr 3 at 6:46
  • I don't know what makes you think that I'm a linguist, but I'm no linguist. I do have access to CGEL, but not to OED. And CGEL isn't particularly helpful on this issue anyway. I've just found this answer that corroborates your answer: ell.stackexchange.com/a/149693/17684 But I'm not sure if it can qualify as an attested example. – JK2 Apr 3 at 7:16
  • @JK2 I always thought you were a linguist! You're so knowledgeable where the rules of grammar is concerned and you often quote CGEL in your posts, I just presumed you were. Oops! – Mari-Lou A Apr 3 at 7:27
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    I've seen historical present used with a past temporal adjunct, not that I can find an example without a fair amount of work, but my recollection is that it's generally in the context of a timeline, or a quasi-timeline written as prose. I think I've seen it in police procedurals. In the examples from the OP, I would be very hesitant to suggest that it would be okay to use the historical present - I don't think you do, but a reader might not pick up on that nuance. Still, I wouldn't want to be as anti-HP as some users on this site. – SamBC Apr 5 at 10:35
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The simple present can be used for facts, but only for statements of general truth (or absolutely current things), and even then it's not always idiomatic.

Your joining the company is very specific, about you and the company, so it is not a statement of general truth. The same for 'clearing' the exam, whatever that might mean. Those both want to be given in a tense that signifies past time, as they both happened in the past.

1

You're mistaken about this:

to tell fact we use Present tense.

By which you seem to be saying:

to tell facts we have to use the present tense, not the past tense.

If so, I don't know who's 'we', but that's not how English works.

The past simple tense as well as the present simple tense can be used to make a factual statement.

(a) I joined this company in the year 2005.

(a) is a factual statement about a past event.

In fact, when you describe a past event, you'd normally have to use the past tense, not the present tense.

Therefore, (b) is ungrammatical:

(b) *I join this company in the year 2005.

The difference between the present simple tense and the past simple tense is not that only the former denotes a fact but that the latter is limited to a specific past time whereas the former generally is not.

  • What about the use of the historical present? We use this construction in narratives and history book to make events seem more alive and real to our readers. P.S. I see nothing inherently wrong with the OP's usage of "we" and I found your remark (I don't know who's 'we', but that's not how English works.) to be a bit sarky. – Mari-Lou A Mar 31 at 8:55
  • @Mari-LouA The last sentence in my answer is not incompatible with 'historical present'. – JK2 Mar 31 at 15:39
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    @Mari-LouA As for "we", it's not just "we" but the entire statement I quoted that struck me as odd, because in context the OP meant something like "to tell fact we have to use Present tense", which I then proved to be wrong. – JK2 Mar 31 at 16:01
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    @Mari-LouA I don't know why you're giving me the historical present example. I know what that is, and I said that my answer isn't incompatible with it. "At the age of twenty I joined the army" is just as much a factual statement as "At the age of twenty I join the army". – JK2 Mar 31 at 16:37
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The other answers are right on, and present tense is incorrect. For statement 2, you could also use present perfect: "I have cleared the exam." You wouldn't want to do that for statement 1 though, because present perfect cannot correctly be used to refer to a specific time in the past (because it's a present tense).

1

I understand your question, that you are concerned speaking in the past tense ("I joined") makes it sound like you worked there in the past, not in the present.

You have to say "joined", because the moment of your joining was in the past. However, the fact that you say "I joined this company" and not "I joined the company" makes it pretty clear that you are still working there. If you were telling a story about somewhere that you used to work then you would probably name that company and then refer to it as "the company". Saying "this company" puts it in the present quite clearly.

If you wanted to make it even more obvious than that, you could instead say:

I have worked here since...[date]

"Since" refers to the time period between the date you specify and the time under consideration, which in this case is the present.

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