I recently came across a bit of a tangle that was a little hard to resolve. A nice reader pointed out there were errors in tense in one section of my work. Try as I might, I could not see these. Then a friend of mine with a more literary background helped me out. His take was that the source of the comment was a certain sentence construction I sometimes use – specifically he said “-you tend to use a present tense verb modified by a prior past tense clause”.
For example: Teag turned and galloped down the hill, issuing orders to his men as he went.
Now the source of confusion (if I have got this right) as that the second part of this sentence is in present progressive (present continuous) tense – events happening now – whereas the first part is in past tense.
So is the use of this sort of sentence valid or not? My smart literary friend says there is really nothing wrong with it, although other close friends trained in syntax and grammar maintain that this should be changed to either:
Teag turned and galloped down the hill, he issued orders to his men as he went. (Which kind of reads a little strange to me) or
Teag turned and galloped down the hill. He issued orders to his men as he went. (Which feels ‘dead’ compared to the original)
This is really getting into a grammar grey area (well at least for me).
Wondering over the source of this – it must have crept into my subconscious somewhere – I flicked through a few novels on my shelf and found this exact thing used reasonably frequently in text. Right. So somewhere its passed an editor. At least in those books.
Here are some quotes from David Gemmell’s Dark Prince.
“For a moment only Philip’s face softened, his arm rising as if to reach out to his son.”
“Her fingers touched his face, stroking the skin”
Now there is also past continuous tense – or past progressive (imperfect) tense. Can past tense and past continuous be used together, if so do the ‘-ing’ words above fall into the present continuous or past continuous category?
What do people think? Is there a problem leaving it as it is or should these be corrected every time?