I wrote this sentence

As they progressed, their problems were related more to finding the sound-to-letter correspondence. Now they tried (or were trying) a specific set of letters for each phoneme before grasping the spelling pattern.

Is my usage of "Now" for a sentence in past correct?

Could it be a special sentence (imaginary) with specific structure (for example needing would try or "were trying")?

  • It sounds strange, in my opinion. I would avoid the use of now in combination with a past tense.
    – Vlammuh
    Jul 27, 2015 at 19:03
  • It's possible, but it requires finesse to avoid confusion. Jul 27, 2015 at 19:16
  • There is a narrative use of now, as Lawrence said (see, for example, paragraph 3 here read.gov/aesop/005.html) but the pattern now they would try this...and now they would try that adds a kind of drama or immediacy to the account or tale, and it would not typically be used in a dry clinical account, such as the one in your example.
    – TimR
    Feb 11, 2017 at 11:11

1 Answer 1


Now is an adverb that can mean "happening at or referring the present time or moment."

Now also has another meaning - here's Google's take on it:

  1. used, especially in conversation, to draw attention to a particular statement or point in a narrative.

    "now, my first impulse was to run away"

This might be how now was intended to be used above. In this case, it will typically be used in the first word of the sentence and be offset with a comma. Since now would be being used as a "flag of importance" the tense of the verb it modifies wouldn't matter.

  • Interesting! It seems there is more tie between world languages than we imagine. Because in Persian we also use such sentences with now and I wrote that for that reason.
    – Ahmad
    Jul 27, 2015 at 19:42
  • @Ahmad: English is an Indo-European language, and Persian is too. There may be other links (and this may or may not actually be relevant; I'm not a professional linguist), but that's the most obvious one. Jul 31, 2015 at 19:24
  • @NathanTuggy, Sure and it really help people whose languages have the same root, to grasp each other language sooner. Specially the structure of sentences and sentence elements (adverbs, prepositions...). for example the structure of Semitic language is quite different. I even found some proverb and idioms which are common in English and Persian and rooted in many years ago. For this reason, sometimes I found something common in my language but maybe just old or uncommon in English.
    – Ahmad
    Jul 31, 2015 at 19:52

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