Place verbs on a “mental” time line.

Verbs express action, and the reader should be able to understand easily when one action happens in relationship to another action.  With all the different tenses, that is not always easy to do.

My thanks to one of my readers for letting me use some example sentences from his writing about chess to illustrate this point.  Here is the first one:

When my father saw me one afternoon playing chess with my classmate, he hurriedly approach me and on that day he taught me how to play the right and serious way….

The first verb in this sentence is SAW (past tense). From that verb we know that the afternoon referred to has already occurred.  The second verb is APPROACH. If this verb were in the Present tense and used with HE, it would be written APPROACHES, but since the father SAW (past tense), the correct form would be APPROACHED (past tense) because the father APPROACHED on the same afternoon that he SAW. The third verb TAUGHT is correct because it is in the Past tense. The sentence should read this way:

When my father saw me playing chess one afternoon with my classmate, he hurriedly approached me, and on that day he taught me how to play the right and serious way….

Notice that I moved "one afternoon" to a smoother place in the sentence and added a comma after ME.

 

Here is the second sentence:

He didn't stop until I understand the proper use and value of my chess pieces.

The first verb in this sentence is DID STOP, which is Past tense. Therefore, UNDERSTOOD should also be in the Past tense because the chess player learned the proper use at a point in the past, not in the present. This sentence should read this way:

He didn't stop until I understood the proper use and value of my chess pieces.

 

Here is one more tip about verb use in sentences.  Take a look at this sentence:

 From beginner tactics to intermediate plans, all the fundamentals of chess were taught within a month by my father .

There is nothing grammatically incorrect about this sentence, but because it uses the Passive Voice (WERE TAUGHT), it does what I like to call "going around your elbow to say what you mean." It would be much more effective in the Active Voice.  This can be done by making MY FATHER the subject of the sentence as follows:

 From beginner tactics to intermediate plans, my father taught me all the fundamentals of chess within a month .

I think most readers would agree that this is more direct and easier to read.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 


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2 Responses to “Place verbs on a “mental” time line.”

  1. Chess Sets says:

    Cool post, I’ve been playing chess since I was four, I never get bored of it.

  2. admin says:

    Chess is a great game and keeps your mind sharp, no matter what your age.

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