Tense Exercise (555)

Revise each sentence below to reflect correct usage and style. (One or more sentences may be correct.)

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The Easter front brought just a tenth of an inch of rain in the early afternoon, just enough to remind drought-ridden residents of what rain looked like.
Correct : The Easter front brought just a tenth of an inch of rain in the early afternoon, just enough to remind drought-ridden residents of what rain looks like.

The reference to the appearance of rain is not dependent on the tense in the main clause. Rain will always look the same, so the dependent clause should be in the present tense (i.e., looks, not looked)

2.
Original: When one looks at typical historical photographs of classrooms, it was clear that the focus of that environment was on the teacher and not the students.
Correct : When one looks at typical historical photographs of classrooms, it is clear that the focus of that environment was on the teacher and not the students.

The attention paid to the focus on the teacher, rather than the students, is a current phenomenon, not one in the context of the moment caught in the photograph, so the verb at the head of the second half of the sentence should be in the present tense (i.e., it is, not it was).

3.
Original: These images often depict the teacher lecturing at the front of the room, while the students were seated at neat rows of desks.
Correct : These images often depict the teacher lecturing at the front of the room, while the students are seated at neat rows of desks.

In the context of the photograph, the students are still seated at the desks, so the verb immediately after the subject in the second clause should be in the present tense (i.e., are seated, not were seated)

4.
Original: When I was that age, I would love to be able to be invisible.
Correct : When I was that age, I would have loved to be able to be invisible.

"I would love to be able" implies that the writer is still capable of being invisible at the age specified, though the tense suggests that the time frame is the present. The meaning is that at the age specified, the writer would have enjoyed the power of invisibility, so the wording must clearly indicate that this is a wish directed at a time in the past.

5.
Original: He said the pool would be refilled after steps are taken to make sure a similar mishap didn’t happen again.
Correct : He said the pool would be refilled after steps are taken to make sure a similar mishap doesn’t happen again.

The safety concern is about a potential event in the future, not the past, so the correct verb for the final phrase of this sentence is doesn’t, not didn’t.

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