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As an example to illustrate my question:

I was feeling the fear rise up, trying to stop me, when...
I was feeling the fear rising up, trying to stop me, when...

I'm not sure what this type of construction is called, so I don't know how to search for it. All mentions of past continuous are examples like "I was doing X when Y happened," which seem different to me.

So, when you have a first verb that is past continuous ("I was feeling"), but then another verb following it ("rise up") BEFORE the simple past verb, what tense should it be? I think plain present (rise) or present continuous (rising) seems the most appropriate.

  • I reformatted your question so it's easier to tell what you're asking. With the two sentences placed horizontally, I had to stare at what you'd written for over 10 seconds to figure out what the difference was between the two of them. – Jason Bassford Jun 14 '19 at 14:40
  • It's purely a matter of opinion, and I can think of many subtle changes to the verb tenses, but my personal way of writing the sentence would be different: I had started to feel [a] fear rising up to stop me, when . . . Note that, without more context, I would also use a fear, not the fear. (Of course, some kind of fear might have been introduced earlier, in which case the is fine.) – Jason Bassford Jun 14 '19 at 14:44
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There's nothing inherently incorrect about repeating the continuous verb form in, for example,...

He was feeling the fear rising up
Homer Simpson is listening to Lisa playing her saxophone
Everyone was watching, and feeling the tension rising

...where all those links are to valid written instances in Google Books.

But it's a rather awkward construction, and in most cases native speakers would probably prefer to use unmarked the infinitive form (rise, play) for the second verb ("unmarked" because we don't include the "infinitive marker" to in such contexts).

In short, this is simply a stylistic choice. But most people would normally choose to avoid the slightly clumsy repetition, given that it's perfectly grammatical to switch to the infinitive.


Noting that OP incorrectly describes rise in his example as "Present Simple", I'll just give these examples that should make it easier to see it's actually an "(unmarked) infinitive" as stated above...

Lisa is helping Bart learning his multiplication tables
Lisa is helping Bart to learn his multiplication tables
Lisa is helping Bart learn his multiplication tables

...where all three versions are syntactically valid. You should almost always avoid the first one (because it's clumsy), but most people wouldn't even notice whether you included to or not in the other two (infinitive-based) versions.

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There is no rule that all the verbs in a sentence must have the same tense. The tense of each verb should match when the action in that verb occurs. It is perfectly reasonable to mix tenses if that accurately matches when the action occurred.

Perhaps the most obvious example would when you are describing a series of actions. Like, "Yesterday I ate eggs for breakfast, today I am eating pancakes, and tomorrow I will eat cereal."

But it's possible -- and common -- in more complex sentences. Like, "When I was young I thought that someday I will become a millionaire." "Thought" is in past tense because I was doing the thinking in the past. "Will become" is future because I was thinking of an event that will happen in the future.

In your example, "I was feeling the fear rise up ..." "Was feeling" is past continuous, because the feeling occurred in the past but continued over a period of time. "Rise up" is present, because at the time I had the feeling, I was feeling that something was happening in my then-present. In this case, you could also say "rising up". The difference is point of view. If you write "I was feeling the fear rising up", you are saying the rising was in the past, from your point of view now telling the story. If you say "rise up", you are saying the rising was present, from the point of view of the character ("I" in this case) experiencing it at that moment.

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  • I wouldn't normally accept When I was young I thought that someday I will become a millionaire. There's nothing wrong with Past+Future He said he will come or Present+Future He thinks he will come in appropriate contexts, but I can't really get my head around He thought he will come. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 14 '19 at 13:57
  • @FumbleFingers Well, it would be more common to say, "He thought he would come." – Jay Jun 14 '19 at 16:33
  • Undoubtedly. But the issue is whether it's acceptable to use will rather than would. I suppose there might be some unusual contrived context where even I would accept it, but my instant reaction is it doesn't look good to me. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jun 14 '19 at 16:49

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