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Unit 1: Sentence fragmentsUnit 2: Run-on sentences Unit 3: Subject-verb agreementUnit 4: TensesUnit 5: PassiveUnit 6: ApostrophesUnit 7: Articles

Summary: Tenses

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Avoid approaching tenses on a verb by verb basis. It is best to approach tenses by asking:

  • What is the purpose of this particular section of my writing?
  • Am I trying to define, state my position, give an overview of my essay, present evidence, or provide comment? Think about the tense most appropriate to that purpose.
  • What is the question I am being asked to answer?

Think about the key instruction words in the assessment question (discuss, report, describe, explain) and about the topic you are writing about, to help you decide on the kinds of tenses that are likely to appear in the body of your writing.

If you change tense in any section of writing ask yourself: 'Why have I changed tense in this section? Have I changed my purpose here?'

Ask your lecturer or tutor for models of similar question types and their answers. Identify the dominant tenses and note where they are used.

You have completed Module 1, Unit 4: Tenses.

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