Tag Archives: past simple

I am so tense

What the hell does Past Simple / Past Perfect / Past Continuous even mean?

Oh, I’ve done the research, and *know* what their usage is. But what sucky names.

• Renny held the chicken to the block, waited for it to calm and swung the cleaver neatly removing its head.

To me I’d call this Past Present. As far as Renny is concerned, she’s in her own present tense. But to us, it’s in the past: Past Present.

• A pile of bodies lay next to Renny, but the last chicken ran frantic about the yard. She’d held it like the others; allowed it to calm and then whacked it hard with the butcher’s knife. The crow had distracted her though, and the knife, instead of slicing cleanly, had crushed its skull.

Here we start in the Past Present (again: Renny’s point of view) and then we slip into a time just before we observed Renny and her pile of bodies, a time I’d call Past Prior. That is, prior to the past we’re witnessing, the following happened: “She’d held it like the others;…” At this point we’ve double jumped back in time, the past’s past. Or Past Prior.

Past Present and Past Prior make way more sense to me than the Simple and Perfect nonsense the archaic English aficionados dreamed up.

The Past Continuous stuff? Eh, I rarely use it as it seems to need a bucket load of passive verb usage. “Renny was trying to cut off the chicken’s head.” “The bodies were piling up in the yard.” No thanks. They should call it Past Passive.

(‘Renny was trying’ and ‘bodies were piling’ are not “technically” passive. But the ‘was’ and ‘were’ trigger instant aversion in me. It seems I can’t easily tell true passive from this past continuous bollocks. So, I try to avoid them whenever I can. I’d rewrite those above with something like “The chicken moved as Renny chopped.” and “Renny tossed another body onto the growing pile.”)