There is no tense implied for the first graph but they use the past simple "received" for the second graph. Does this mean I should use the past simple for both of the graphs. I'm especially not sure what tense to use for the first graph.

First graph:

80% of the under-26s studied for career purposes.

Second graph:

60% of the under-26s received support form their employers.

enter image description here

2 Answers 2


You should use the simple past here.

Normally, when we refer to data in graphs and charts, we use present simple because we are talking about what they represent now to us as we're reading them.

This graphs says that...

If the chart has no time as to when the data was taken or what time it represents, we can choose whether to use present simple and talk as if the data is current, or we can use simple past to indicate we don't know if the data is current.

But this is a test question, and if they use simple past in the question itself, that means the data represents something that is not necessarily accurate or up-to-date, so you should use the simple past as well.


Unless it is clear from further context that all the students have finished studying, use the present tense.

Otherwise, you might imply that something that is still going on actually happened in the past.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. Could you also explain why the graphs use the past simply "received"? I think the support should be still going on as well. Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 12:00
  • It's hard to give a definite answer. It is not a rule of English, but rather the way the author chose to write the sentence. It could be carelessness - i.e. s/he got it wrong, or possibly the data had been gathered at different times and one question was : "Why are you studying", and the other was "What support have you received from your employer".
    – PRL75
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 12:40
  • Ahem... "It's not a rule of English"?? ;) This is a test question. Let's assume it wasn't carelessly written.
    – gotube
    Commented Nov 21, 2022 at 17:53
  • @gotube I think you might be reading the question (in the comments) differently to the way I read it. The author incorrectly talks about the past for both graphs, when it is only used for one. What I meant by 'no rule of English' is that there is no rule that says 'support' should be referred to in the past tense if it is on going. The second part of my answer (in the comments) indicates what might have happened such that the teacher was using the tenses correctly.
    – PRL75
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 8:52

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