DailyWritingTips

Lesson 4: Mixed Tenses in Paragraphs

Mixing tenses in paragraphs is common, especially when telling a story that includes when things are happening. Take a look at the following story that describes a person’s first day of summer vacation.

To help you see the shifts in tense, present tenses are in bold, past tenses are in regular typeface, and future tenses are in italics

Today is the first week of summer vacation. Wyatt had been sleeping for eight hours when the dogs barked. He got up to see if anyone was at the door, but no one was there. The barking had also woken up Wyatt’s brother Emmett. Because neither of them could go back to sleep, they decided to go for a walk around the block. 

While Wyatt was tying his shoes, Emmett brushed his teeth. As they stepped outside, they heard a loud crash from the garage. They ran to the garage door and looked inside. Their cat, Lily, had gotten out of the house, and the dogs had chased her into the garage. She had jumped on a shelf and knocked over an old flower pot. 

Wyatt and Emmett put the dogs in the house so Lily wouldn’t be afraid anymore. She didn’t want to come down from the shelf, but Wyatt coaxed her down with some canned tuna fish. Then, Wyatt and Emmett brought Lily inside after they put the dogs back in the yard. 

Now it is 12:00, and Wyatt is eating lunch. He is eating a sandwich with potato chips. Lately, he has been trying to add healthier food, like salad, to his diet. Emmett always tells him this will make him feel healthier, but it’s not easy for him because he really likes sandwiches and potato chips. 

He will be doing many things later this afternoon and evening and wants to have energy. He doesn’t feel like salad will give him energy to go to the gym and run laps on the track. He practices six times a week because he is on the track team. He has been on the track team since 8th grade. When he is finished running, he will take a shower and get ready for his date tonight. First, he will eat dinner with his girlfriend. Next, they plan to watch a movie at the theater with Emmett and some other friends. By the time the movie ends, it will be close to midnight, and they will go for ice cream before heading home. At least, that is the plan.

Now, here’s another version where only the verb forms are highlighted. Present tenses are in bold, past tenses are underlined, and future tenses are in italics

Today is the first week of summer vacation. Wyatt had been sleeping for eight hours when the dogs barked. He got up to see if anyone was at the door, but no one was there. The barking had also woken up Wyatt’s brother Emmett. Because neither of them could go back to sleep, they decided to go for a walk around the block. 

While Wyatt was tying his shoes, Emmett brushed his teeth. As they stepped outside, they heard a loud crash from the garage.They ran to the garage door and looked inside. Their cat, Lily, had gotten out of the house, and the dogs had chased her into the garage. She had jumped on a shelf and knocked over an old flower pot. 

Wyatt and Emmett put the dogs in the house so Lily wouldn’t be afraid anymore. She did not want to come down from the shelf, but Wyatt coaxed her down with some canned tuna fish. Then, Wyatt and Emmett brought Lily inside after they put the dogs back in the yard. 

Now it is 12:00, and Wyatt is eating lunch. He is eating a sandwich with potato chips. Lately, he has been trying to add healthier food, like salad, to his diet. Emmett always tells him this will make him feel healthier, but it is not easy for him because he really likes sandwiches and potato chips. 

He will be doing many things later this afternoon and evening and wants to have energy. He does not feel like salad will give him the energy to go to the gym and run laps on the track. He practices six times a week because he is on the track team. He has been on the track team since 8th grade. When he is finished running, he will take a shower and get ready for his date tonight. First, he will eat dinner with his girlfriend. Next, they plan to watch a movie at the theater with Emmett and some other friends. By the time the movie ends, it will be close to midnight, and they will go for ice cream before heading home. At least, that is the plan.