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In my native language, we tend to use the present form in some situations where English uses the preterite – for instance, we say "Jag är född i maj" ('I am born in May'), rather than "Jag föddes i maj" ('I was born in May'). Likewise, we would most naturally say that something is written by someone, rather than that it was written by someone. Now I'm wondering about the following sentence:

This year's speech is written by NN, who's in Mrs B's class.

Even though the general rule states that the preterite should be used, I'm thinking that perhaps the explicit link to "now" (i.e., the use of "this year's") makes the use of the present ok? When I google it, I get lots and lots of hits, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's correct...

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You're absolutely correct. It is common to say that something "was" written by someone:

This year's speech was written by NN, who's in Mrs B's class.

Because no specific time is mentioned, the present perfect is also possible:

This year's speech has been written by NN, who's in Mrs B's class.

You can also use the present tense, which helps to distinguish this year's speech from previous ones:

This year's speech is written by NN, who's in Mrs B's class.

The other three tenses (past perfect, future, and future perfect) could also work in the right contexts.

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    Thank you!! This is exactly the answer I needed! :) May 12, 2022 at 12:01
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When speaking about an event, several tenses are possible. A speech has both event and authorship aspects. It also depends on whether you are introducing the speaker, or telling someone about the event before or after it happened. Native speakers would probably not use past tense ("was written by") before the event, except in some unusual circumstance, such as someone reading a speech written by a different person ("Here is John Doe to read the sermon that was written by Rev. Rick Roe."). Future tense might be the most common when speaking in advance of an event.

Here are several ways of phrasing a sentence about a speech, all of which would be common for native speakers:

This year's speech is by Joe Doe. (An introduction, or an announcement about the event)

This year's speech will be by John Doe. (An announcement before the event)

This year's speech was written by John Doe. (A description after the event)

John Doe was this year's graduation speaker. (A description after the event)

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  • Thank you! I totally see what you mean, and this is precisely why I'm unsure, because there are more than one temporal aspects involved. The act described by the verb as such is in the past (the speech has already been written), but the delivery of the speech is in the future. That's why I feel that the present for the verb "write" might be correct in my example. So, would you agree that "this year's speech is written by John Doe", uttered before the speech has been delivered (or possibly while it's being delivered), would work? May 11, 2022 at 14:21
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    I would like to add another option that I think would work quite nicely in the example: This year's speech has been written by Jane Doe. You can use the present perfect to refer to events that happened in the past but connect with the present.
    – xyldke
    May 11, 2022 at 14:30
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    Of course the speech is written in advance, but the important thing is the event, not the text. I think you can use present or future tense. I suggest "This year's speech will be by John Doe" or "This year's speaker will be John Doe" or "This year's speaker is John Doe."
    – user8356
    May 11, 2022 at 15:10
  • Thank you for your input – I'm not looking for a way to express this, though; I'm wondering whether the exact phrasing "This year's speech *is written by John Doe" would work :) May 12, 2022 at 12:00
  • The "is written" phrasing is understandable and correct grammatically. However, it's a little unusual to specify that a speech is or was "written." It's more common to refer to a speech being "delivered" or "given" or just "by" someone. That's why I suggested "This year's speech will be by John Doe" rather than "This year's speech is written by John Doe." The present tense just sounds weird, unless you are standing at the lecturn introducing John at the event, just before he speaks. Then the present tense would be the most appropriate.
    – user8356
    May 12, 2022 at 15:42

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