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Relax, it’s only Tense.

When the fantasy writer writes it is probably a good idea to have some idea of tense. There are some who claim to know of over thirty different tenses, though past, present, and future are the most common. Many are the same tense with a different name. I found a neat article on this subject and would like to share some of the ideas with you.

Practicing Examples of Tense

Being fantasy writers, let’s ‘practice’ magic as an example. Tense adds a time dimension to the verb. In this case, to when and how we practice.

I practice magic every day.

Meaning I have made practice a habit and I practice every day.

I have practiced magic for years.

For years I have practiced magic in the past, up to and including the present. It doesn’t include the future.

I have been practicing magic for years.

I practiced magic in the past, continue to practice now and will probably practice magic in the future

I did practice magic, once upon a time.

In the past I practiced magic. It doesn’t relate to now or the future.

I used to practice magic, but now I practice science.

I no longer practice magic.

I was practicing magic on Saturdays, but now I practice any day of the week.

In the past I was practicing magic on Saturdays but in the present I practice any day of the week.

I would practice magic, all the time.

If it were possible I would practice magic at all times…if possible.

I had practiced magic for many years before I understood science.

Although I used to practice magic in the past, there is no indication if I am still practicing magic in the present or in the future.

I had been practicing magic when I became aware of science.

There was a time in the past when I practiced magic but then the situation changed.

I will practice magic again someday.

In the future I intend to/or predict that I will practice magic.

I will have practiced magic if you understand this article.

The completion of an action in the future.

I will be practicing magic when I finish this article.

This action is definitely going to happen at a specific point in the future.

Tense Names

Some named tenses, to simplify the chaos. Don’t get tense, it’s really quite simple!

Present Simple: I fight.
Present Continuous: I am fighting.
Present Perfect: I have fought.
Present Perfect: Continuous: I have been fighting.
Past Simple (aka preterite): I did fight. I fought.
Imperfect: I used to fight
Past Continuous: I was fighting.
Conditional: I would fight.
Pluperfect/Past Perfect: I had been fighting.
Past Perfect Continuous: I had fought.
Future: I will fight.
Future Perfect: I will have fought.
Future Continuous: I will be fighting.
Future Perfect Continuous: I will have been fighting.

See? That’s not so bad. So from now on don’t let tense get you tense.

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9 Comments

  1. This is an excellent cheat sheet for all writers, not just fantasy (but I like the fantasy spin with the use of magic). One of the most annoying things about some authors is that they have no grasp of tense, and it can shift wildly during the course of a single paragraph. This is bookmarked and then some – I won’t be making the same mistakes 🙂

    • Thanks Jamie, I thought it was a useful list to keep handy. Didn’t know if others would share my fascination with ‘tense’. Seems like one of those things we think should just ‘work’, so it is useful to have notes on hand to refer to when things get tense, hmm.. I mean confusing.

  2. Bets Davies says:

    Anyone written a fantasy book in the present tense? I am writing a memoir mostly in the present tense, and it lends an interesting edge. Was thinking about doing it in fantasy

  3. Patti B says:

    Great article – except there’s a tinsy winsy mistake. Past Perfect is “I had fought”. Only the continuous is formed by adding “ing”.

    I only know this because I have to teach it to my adult ESL students – but remember why we use it is harder. Thanks for the examples.

  4. Wendy L says:

    Very handy list, Rosalie and fun examples

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