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Encountered the following question:

Steven ____ the string tightly around the stack of books before tying a dead knot.

  1. wind
  2. winds
  3. wound
  4. winding

I feel that both "winds" (present tense) and "wound" (past tense) seem correct, since "tying a knot" is a gerund and does not give any information about whether this event occurs in the present or past. But the answer key says the correct option should be "winds".

Does anyone have a suggestion on why "wound" is not correct? Or is the answer key wrong/question is set badly?

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  • What you should learn from this question isn't so much Which verb tense is correct? You should be learning that the source from which you got the question is to be avoided. It's worse than just being a total waste of time, because it's actually trying to teach you things that are incorrect (as opposed to simply teaching you nothing at all - which would be a waste of time, but otherwise harmless). Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 14:06

3 Answers 3

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The answer key is not correct. The sentence (as you pointed out) does not contain any clues that would constrain it to only present tense or only past tense. Therefore either "winds" or "wound" would be grammatically correct, and either one would make logical sense as well.

If you were given additional context beyond that single sentence, then we might be able to say that one of the choices is or is not correct in that context.

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Technically both "wound" and "winds" are both correct. One may think "tying" affects the overall tense of the sentence, but it is a present participle, and it does not affect any tense.


The paragraph below may or may not be correct, so stick with both "wound" and "winds" being correct

Plus, they are no other words in the sentence to determine the tense, therefore both present and past tense can be used. Although, the adverb "tightly" is commonly used with present tense, so I think this is why the answer key things "winds" is correct instead of "wound"

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    Agree with your first paragraph, not so sure about the second. +1 anyway.
    – randomhead
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 12:47
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In narrative, both are fine, and there is nothing in what is given to allow us to choose between them.

In ordinary speech, only wound is possible, because we wouldn't use the "present simple" to refer to a particular action.

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    Of course we use the present simple to refer to a specific action. It's baseball season now; turn on the radio this afternoon and you'll hear play-by-play sportscasting making extensive use of the present simple.
    – randomhead
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 13:26
  • Yes, @randomhead: that is narrative.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 13:27

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