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The disappearing past tense

(25 Posts)
varian Sun 16-Aug-20 14:15:46

Why do TV historians talk in the present tense?

Is this just an attempt to inject excitement ?- eg "King Charles gets his head chopped off" instead of "got his head chopped off.

Jane10 Sun 16-Aug-20 14:24:10

I'm so glad to see I'm not the only one irritated by the constant use of the present tense when referring to things that happened in the past!

quizqueen Sun 16-Aug-20 14:28:33

They probably think that correct grammar is no longer important; just as many on here think correct spelling is no longer important either! In fact, those who dare to object to poor spelling etc. are treated like pariahs and the people, who can't spell or punctuate for toffee, as a someone to be cherished because they deem to bestow their sometimes unreadable uttering on us!!!

FarNorth Sun 16-Aug-20 14:29:05

I expect it's meant to give a sense of immediacy and involvement of the viewer.

Is the past tense disappearing from elsewhere?

quizqueen Sun 16-Aug-20 14:29:19

Get rid of the 'a' before someone!

varian Sun 16-Aug-20 14:38:30

It's not just historians. You get bystanders interviewed at the scene of an accident who say "I'm in my front garden when this car comes round the corner..." not "was in" and "came round". Do the interviewers encourage it?

lemongrove Sun 16-Aug-20 14:42:13

Yes, I think it’s to convey a sense of immediacy and urgency to the scene/ situation.It just sounds wrong though.
Quizqueen grin

Jane10 Sun 16-Aug-20 17:46:16

It's quite contagious too. DH will often start to tell me about his day in the present tense eg 'I'm standing in the office and Jim comes in and says...' Drives me nuts.

Kate54 Sun 16-Aug-20 18:38:28

Apparently it’s a legitimate tense - the historical present - but I don’t get it either. If it’s happened, it’s happened!

grandtanteJE65 Tue 18-Aug-20 09:57:49

Danish journalists started this habit in the 1970s - their reasoning was that it made things more interesting!

It is just annoying in my opinion.

I have a feeling that the term "historical present" was coined to account for this usage, but we were not taught it at school or allowed to use it there.

To me it sounds childish, glad to see it isn't just me that gets annoyed about it.

eazybee Tue 18-Aug-20 10:08:45

It is all about communication, innit.

lovebeigecardigans1955 Tue 18-Aug-20 10:13:45

I've sometimes come across this in books which are obviously about something which has happened in the past, recent or otherwise. I get a little annoyed about it too.

MaizieD Wed 19-Aug-20 08:10:16

I loathe it. If I'm listening to, or watching a programme about history where it's being used I just switch it off. I can easily research the topic myself if I'm really interested.

If it's in a book, fiction or non fiction, I won't read it.. Which may mean I miss out on some greatly admired literature or some dazzling historical insight, but if I'd attempted to read the book I'd have been too irritated to have noticed it anyway... 😀

Didsbury Thu 27-Aug-20 23:02:36

People confuse, "Is" and "are"

"Is" denotes, first-person singular
"Are" denotes, First, second and third-person plural.

Didsbury Thu 27-Aug-20 23:05:02

What makes me angry is when you hear

I was sat at a bus stop
No, you were not,
You were sitting at a bus stop


NotSpaghetti Thu 27-Aug-20 23:08:27

I think its it's actually been in use for centuries - not just since the 1970s.
St Mark's gospel apparently uses it.

growstuff Thu 27-Aug-20 23:13:13

Yes, it's called the historical present and has been used for at least a hundred years in literature. Dickens used it. It's very commonly used in speech to relate something which has happened to add immediacy.

"The Handmaid's Tale" is written entirely in the historical present.

sparklingsilver28 Thu 27-Aug-20 23:13:42

I done it - my favourite!

Charleygirl5 Fri 28-Aug-20 09:47:02

Mine is I have went. Really?

Callistemon Fri 28-Aug-20 09:49:12

Some novelists use it which render their books unreadable as far as I'm concerned.

Mantel is one.

Luckygirl Fri 28-Aug-20 09:53:08

Ah yes.........language dare it! smile

Callistemon Fri 28-Aug-20 09:53:36

Only if we like it grin

Jayt Fri 28-Aug-20 09:54:20

You have all mentioned things that annoy me. My dear English teachers would be horrified. I particularly dislike “ I was stood” and “I was sat” and I notice news reporters using this language now. They should know better.

Missfoodlove Fri 28-Aug-20 10:00:56

An English teacher once said to me “was you a teacher”
She had an English degree, a Masters and a PGCE.

grumppa Fri 28-Aug-20 10:28:47

Historic present has been around a long time, and can be effective in small doses, but for me too its use by Mantel makes her tomes almost unreadable.