Revisions:  Verb Tense, Part II

Revisions: Verb Tense, Part II

Lots of the revisions you have to make on the ELA section of the new SHSAT exam revolve around knowing how to use verbs.  We’ve looked at the Good & the Messy versions of the present tense and the past tense (see Verb Tense, Part 1), but now we’ll tackle the future tense as well as some weird situations that might make you question your game—but that you’ll use to show off just how good you are!

Future Tense:   the Good & the Messy

There is always one good use of the present, past, and future tenses:  the simple use!  The simple future tense lets the reader know that there is a fact that will be true about the world—in the future, but not yet.  For example:

Wally will learn to drive when he turns 16.

In this example, Wally has not yet learned how to drive.  But, when he turns 16, he will learn how to do so.  The world will look different then (when he is 16 and learns how to drive) than it does now (before he is 16 and, maybe, has to take the train).

But not all uses of the future tense are so clean.  (Not surprisingly!) In fact, the future tense has some interesting messiness.  Think about this example:

Wally will be learning how to drive when he turns 16.

This use means something very different—that Wally, at the time of his 16th birthday—will be learning how to drive.  This tense suggests that Wally is participating in the action at the time of his birthday and will continue.  The example can be slightly altered to include more messiness:

Wally will have learned how to drive when he turns 16.

This sentence is also in the future tense, because it states an event will occur by a specific time in the future.  But, its meaning is distinct from the other examples.  It means that Wally will have completed learning how to drive by the time he is 16.  He hasn’t learned how to drive yet, because he isn’t yet 16.  In the future, though, he will be 16 and by that time, he will know how to drive.

For revisions, make sure to avoid verbs that do not agree with other.  Some common errors in the future tense would be:

X Wally will learned how to drive when he turns 16.

X Wally will have learn how to drive when he turns 16.

X Wally will having learned how to drive when he turns 16.

X Wally will be having learned how to drive when he turns 16.

Also remember to compare the verb tense within the sentence to make sure they agree.  If the sentence read, “Wally will have learned how to drive when he turning 16,” you will know that the ‘ing’ in the sentence doesn’t agree with the future tense of the “will have learned how”.  If the tenses do not agree, you will know it can’t be a correct answer.

Probability & Other Agreements

There are other types of agreements within sentences that you will need to be careful to know, and they revolve around probabilities, or how likely it is that an event could happen in the future.

If you know that something will happen, it should be written as a statement of fact.

Incorrect form:  x  If the roads are icy, we would have to have taken the train.  This sentence is written incorrectly, because it sets up a future condition—if the roads are icy—and then uses the past tense (‘we would have to have taken”).  There needs to be agreement between the verbs in the sentence.  We can revise it:

                Correct form:  If the roads are icy, we will have to take the train.

There are other times when we write about things that are unlikely to occur, but still might happen.

Incorrect form:  x If I had a million dollars, I am rich.  Look for agreement between the two verb parts of the sentence.  “If I had a million dollars” sets up a scenario that is not currently true.  But, “I am rich” states a fact about the world right now.  An issue with this sentence is that we don’t have enough context from this sentence alone to know exactly how to revise it, but there are two possible ways we could correctly fix it. 

Correct form #1:  If I had a million dollars, I’d be rich.  This revision is correct because it sets up agreement between what could be the case (having a million dollars) and what would happen if something was the case (I’d be rich).

Correct form #2:  If I have a million dollars, I am rich.  This revision makes the verbs agree by setting up a fact about the world—if it’s true that I have a million dollars, then it’s also true in that case that I am rich.  The key is to figure out if the verbs in the sentence have the same verb tense.  You don’t have to know if it’s really true that if you have a million bucks, you are rich.  (For example, if you have a million dollars but owe three million, you aren’t rich.)  All you need for a correct revision is to make sure that the verbs agree!

Finally, there are cases in which we think about events that didn’t happen in the past, but we also think about what would have happen if they had occurred.  These can be confusing but focus on what the sentence is written to mean.

Incorrect form:  x  If we had had time to study, we definitely will have aced this exam.

Correct form #1:  If we had time to study, we definitely would have aced this exam.  In this revision, we tighten up the first part by removing the redundant “had had”.  But, we also make sure that the verb forms agree—if it was true that we had time to study, it also was true that we would have aced the exam.  The revision should make the sentence more clear, and have corrected the agreement between the verbs in the first and second portions of the sentence.

Correct form #2:  If we have time to study, we definitely will ace the exam.  We don’t have enough context to know which correct form is the revision that would best work, but this is a good option.  It puts up a condition for what can happen in the future, and the verbs agree.  (Also, it makes sense—if we have time to study, we’ll ace the exam!)

Remember for revisions, verbs must agree and you want to make the statement as clear as possible.  If you can have more than one meaning for the sentence, it is not the correct revision.  Keep these 3 C’s in mind–Clear, Concise, and Correct—and you’ll be in great shape for verb agreement.