I am wondering which tenses to use when talking or commenting about videos on the internet. I've seen people commenting in both presents tense and past tense so I get confused about which one to use. And also when you share a video (e.g. on Instagram) on your story for example and you want to talk about the video which tenses should it be? Should it be past tense because you are talking about something that already happened in the video? or should it be in the present?


2 Answers 2


It is common when analyzing or discussing literary works, to use the Historical Present. This construction uses the present tense to describe events in the past. Using this to summarize the events of a work of fiction puts teh events into a sort of timeless present. The Wikipedia article states (citations omitted):

In English, it is used above all in historical chronicles (listing a series of events). It is also used in fiction, for "hot news" (as in headlines), and in everyday conversation.[1] In conversation, it is particularly common with quotative verbs such as say and go, and especially the newer quotative like. It is typically thought to heighten the dramatic force of the narrative by describing events as if they were still unfolding, and/or by foregrounding some events relative to others.

... ? Summaries of the narratives (plots) of works of fiction are conventionally presented using the present tense, rather than the past tense. At any particular point of the story, as it unfolds, there is a now and so a past and a future, so whether some event mentioned in the story is past, present, or, future changes as the story progresses. The entire plot description is presented as if the story's now were a continuous present. Thus, in summarizing the plot of A Tale of Two Cities, one may write:

Manette is obsessed with making shoes, a trade he learned while in prison.

Wikipedia advises its editors when writing about works of fiction:

Works of fiction are generally considered to "come alive" for their audience. They therefore exist in a kind of perpetual present, regardless of when the fictional action is supposed to take place relative to the reader's "now". Thus, generally you should write about fiction using the historical present tense, not the past tense. (See WP:Manual of Style § Verb tense and WP:Manual of Style/Writing about fiction § Contextual presentation.) Examples:

  • Homer presents, Achilles rages, Andromache laments, Priam pleads.

  • Holden Caulfield has a certain disdain for what he sees as 'phony'.

  • Friends is an American sitcom that was aired on NBC.

Conversely, discussion of history is usually written in the past tense and thus "fictional history" may be presented in that way as well.

Chroniclers claimed that Thalestris, queen of the Amazons, seduced Alexander the Great.

The simple past is used by some people when discussing works of fiction. Both choices can be valid.


In storytelling, you can typically use either the simple present, present continuous or simple past tense. For example:

Here's a video where I killed a dragon.

Here's a video where I kill a dragon.

This is the video where I'm killing a dragon.

Make sure you distinguish between the act of posting the video and what happened in the video. For example:

Hey guys. I'm posting this video because I killed a dragon and I want everyone to see.

You must log in to answer this question.

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