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Grammar Quiz #7: Tense Shift

Each of the following sentences demonstrates a faulty consistency of tense when the context calls for a shift to another tense. Revise each sentence as necessary.

1. I had wanted to show you where the Joneses lived.

2. She wrote a poem that began with an apt simile.

3. Einstein supposedly said positive-feedback loops were the most impressive phenomenon in our universe.

4. Shortly before he died, he told me he was convinced that the only way to win was to practice.

5. She had profound insights about how the bones of the head moved.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: I had wanted to show you where the Joneses lived.
Correct : I had wanted to show you where the Joneses live.

If the Joneses no longer live at the location, the sentence is correct. But if they still live there, the past tense of the initial verb is irrelevant to the present state of their residence.

2.
Original: She wrote a poem that began with an apt simile.
Correct : She wrote a poem that begins with an apt simile.

The beginning of the poem, assuming the poem still exists, includes an apt simile, and it always will.

3.
Original: Einstein supposedly said positive-feedback loops were the most impressive phenomenon in our universe.
Correct : Einstein supposedly said positive-feedback loops are the most impressive phenomenon in our universe.

Positive-feedback loops presumably still hold that status, so the linking verb should be in the present tense; Einstein’s evaluation is immortal even if he isn’t.

4.
Original: Shortly before he died, he told me he was convinced that the only way to win was to practice.
Correct : Shortly before he died, he told me he was convinced that the only way to win is to practice.

The person expressed what he believed to be a timeless truth, not something he thought only before the time he stated his opinion.

5.
Original: She had profound insights about how the bones of the head moved.
Correct : She had profound insights about how the bones of the head move.

The movement of the bones in the head is a continuing phenomenon.

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Original post: Grammar Quiz #7: Tense Shift


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Grammar Quiz #7: Tense Shift

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