15% off today

from a verified trusted writer

total: $11.23
The Literary Present Tense

The Literary Present Tense

By the time we start writing papers in high school and college, most of us know the basics of verb conjugation. We constantly move between past, present, and future tense in our conversations, and those skills translate onto the page. But when it comes to research papers and essays, students will often find that knowing how to conjugate isn't enough. When you're working on academic papers, you have to know the conventions for using tense as well as the actual rules of conjugation.


Before we start going through the ins and outs of working with tense, first we need to go over a few terms that everybody thinking about tense needs to know.

Present tense

The present tense describes events happening in the current moment in time (I talk, he thinks).

Past tense

The past tense describes events that occurred prior to the present moment (I talked, he thought).

Future tense

The future tense describes events that will happen after the present moment (I will talk, he will think).

Simple tense

The simple tense describes discrete events that have a distinct beginning and end.

Continuous/progressive tense

The continuous tense (also called the progressive) describes actions that take place over an unspecified time period or are ongoing (I am talking; he was thinking). Both the simple and continuous tenses can be combined with present, past, and future tenses.

Perfect tense

The perfect tense describes actions that have already been completed. Like continuous, the perfect tense can be combined with the past, present, and future tenses.

Conventions of Tense

Every academic discipline has its own guidelines about using tense. You'll find some of these rules in style guides or textbooks, but many of these aren't official rules. Instead, they're conventions that most, but certainly not all, professionals in the field follow and which can be bent or broken depending on the writer's style.

Literary present tense

When writing about works of art like novels or paintings, it's convention to use what's called the literary present tense. The nuances are shown in the examples below, but the basic idea is that you should assume events happening in a piece of art exist in an eternal present tense; no matter when you read The Great Gatsby or Hamlet, you should assume those events are always in the present tense. The literary present tense is used in historical writing as well.
Accordingly, when you write using the literary present tense, you use the present tense to discuss fictional events (e.g., things happening in a novel or short story) while the past tense is used to discuss historical events (e.g., things that happened in the life of the writer).
Early in the novel, Mrs. Cunningham declares that Willoughby "is not a man one would consider marrying. - Both the introductory text and the verbs in the quote are in present tense.
Nick states early in the novel that he excuses Gatsby's behavior, but he shows no sympathy for Tom and Daisy. - When describing events from a novel, the present tense is used.
Fitzgerald completed the novel in 1930, but it was not published until after his death. - The verbs here are in the past tense because they are describing real, historical events.
There are a few times when it's acceptable to use the past tense when describing literary works, usually when doing so will make the meaning of the text easier to understand or when a quoted passage contains several different tenses.
When Marlow first appears, he is a mysterious figure. He tells the story about what happened in Africa while shrouded in darkness on the ship deck. - Here the present tense is mixed with the past tense because the text is describing two layers of time (Marlow on the ship deck (the present) and the story Marlow is telling which is set in the past).
You should also leave verbs in quotations in the tense as they appear in the text.
Fitzgerald goes on to say that Gatsby "never knew, nor cared" about the details of that night. - Here the present tense is used to introduce the quote, but the past tense is left inside the quotation marks.
Note that when using the past tense to discuss historical events or the present to discuss works of fiction, you may need to use progressive and perfect tenses to indicate ongoing events or the order of events in the past.
While Mrs. Bennett is scheming to get her daughters in front of Mr. Bingley, Elizabeth meets Mr. Darcy on the dance floor. - Here, the simple and progressive present are mixed to show that two events are happening at the same time.
In the 1930s, Churchill had advocated against the Nazi regime, and in later years his staunch refusal to compromise with Hitler defined the British war effort. - Here, the progressive past is used to show an ongoing action (had advocated), while the simple past is used to show a discrete event (defined).

Research papers

In the sciences, many writers use guidelines similar to those for literary present tense when writing research papers, although it's important to keep in mind that the conventions for research papers are much less strict. While these guidelines can help you write a research paper that's consistent and makes sense, it's often not necessary to strictly follow these rules.
Much like the literary present tense, when writing research papers you can think of your research (e.g., the articles and books you're citing) as being in an eternal present tense. This means you should refer to them in the present like you would works of art. However, when referring to historical events, such as when a book was published, those will be in the past tense.
In their 1965 paper, Jules and Veerland describe the effects of sleep deprivation on older patients. - The present tense is used to discuss a particular study even though it happened in the past.
When the book was published in 1997, it caused a stir in academic circles. - The act of being published is a historical event.
There are times when it's acceptable to use the past tense to discuss the research of others. For example, if the writers of a particular study have since changed their mind or published work that contradicts their earlier position, it can make more sense to describe their work in the past tense.
Jones and Wollstone's early work (2003) presented the theory that the hormone was secreted in response to stress, but later research (Jones and Wollstone, 2007) suggested that this was not the case. - Here, the verbs are in past tense to stress the fact that Jones and Wollstone no longer believe the theory they put forward in their older work.
As was stated above, there's no clear rule for when to use past or present in research papers. Often what's best is an issue of style and will depend on what point you're trying to make in your work. For instance, if you want to discuss the current state of thought about a particular issue, you would want to use the present tense, but if you want to stress that a certain idea is no longer commonly held, then you would use past tense.
When writing about your own experiments, any work that you have completed should be considered a historical event, i.e., a completed event that occurred in the past. Accordingly, you should discuss your work in the past tense.
At six weeks, the seedlings were divided into two treatment groups. - The past tense is used because the experiment was done in the past.

Our TOP writers

TOP 10
Writer 99022
ID 99022

Master's in Project Management, PMP, Six Sigma

Rating 97.1%
CUSTOMER REVIEWS (8) about writer 99022

8036 written pages

894 orders

814 a+ papers

My Master’s degree and comprehensive writing experience allow me to complete any order fast and hit the nail on the head every time.

hire writer
TOP 10
Writer 99423
ID 99423


Rating 98.5%
CUSTOMER REVIEWS (7) about writer 99423

10874 written pages

2175 orders

2110 a+ papers

I am experienced writer with an MBA, PMP, ITIL, that consistently delivers unique, quality papers. I take pride in my experience and quickness.

hire writer
TOP 10
Writer 85466
ID 85466

MS in Human Resource Management

Rating 97.6%
CUSTOMER REVIEWS (9) about writer 85466

18286 written pages

2287 orders

2013 a+ papers

I hold a MS degree in Human Resource and my goal is to help students with flawless, unique papers, delivered on time.

hire writer
TOP 10
Writer 158902
ID 158902


Rating 97.9%
CUSTOMER REVIEWS (6) about writer 158902

1150 written pages

128 orders

118 a+ papers

As Registered Nurse (RN, PCN), I can quickly deal with any medical paper. My expertise and writing skills are perfect for this job.

hire writer
TOP 10
Writer 47072
ID 47072


Rating 99.2%
CUSTOMER REVIEWS (8) about writer 47072

30667 written pages

3834 orders

3604 a+ papers

I have MPA, MHA degrees but, most importantly, experience and skills to provide unique, well-written papers on time.

hire writer
TOP 10
Writer 127980
ID 127980


Rating 99.2%
CUSTOMER REVIEWS (9) about writer 127980

3684 written pages

410 orders

385 a+ papers

I can write about multiple areas and countless topics, as I have a DNP and BA degrees. High-quality writing is my second name.

hire writer
TOP 10
Writer 155864
ID 155864

PhD in American History

Rating 97.2%
CUSTOMER REVIEWS (8) about writer 155864

1250 written pages

313 orders

282 a+ papers

A PhD in American history comes handy. Unique papers, any topics, swift delivery — helping with academic writing is my passion.

hire writer
TOP 10
Writer 103589
ID 103589


Rating 97.2%
CUSTOMER REVIEWS (7) about writer 103589

5327 written pages

593 orders

522 a+ papers

Incredibly fast PsyD writer. Efficient paper writing for college. Hundreds of different tasks finished. Satisfaction guaranteed.

hire writer
TOP 10
Writer 125292
ID 125292


Rating 99.5%
CUSTOMER REVIEWS (9) about writer 125292

4856 written pages

486 orders

471 a+ papers

Top-ranked writer with tons of experience. Ready to take on any task, and make it unique, as well as objectively good. Always ready!

hire writer
TOP 10
Writer 147680
ID 147680


Rating 98.6%
CUSTOMER REVIEWS (8) about writer 147680

4244 written pages

531 orders

489 a+ papers

Experienced Social Work expert focused on good writing, total uniqueness, and customer satisfaction. My goal — to help YOU.

hire writer

Buy your papers from the best writing service

Have your tasks done by our professionals to get the best possible results.

total: $11.23

NO Billing information is kept with us. You pay through secure and verified payment systems.


All papers we provide are of the highest quality with a well-researched material, proper format and citation style.


Our 24/7 Support team is available to assist you at any time. You also can communicate with your writer during the whole process.


You are the single owner of the completed order. We DO NOT resell any papers written by our expert


All orders are done from scratch following your instructions. Also, papers are reviewed for plagiarism and grammar mistakes.


You can check the quality of our work by looking at various paper examples in the Samples section on our website.

Special price $11.23/page
Place an order
more than 63,000 times students trusted us to write their papers
9 out of 10 customers recommend us*
92% of our customers have placed more than 7 orders
*data is based on 6,568 customers' feedback received from Jan 1, 2017 till Jan 1, 2018.
Special price $11.23/page
Place an order
Customer #5079

I love history - that's why I'm majoring in it, but I don't have time to put together a whole thesis about it. I mean, at first I tried doing it myself, but why sweat over it when I can just pay and have it done in a few days? I had to ask for a minor revision for the references page, but otherwise, everything's ok. My writer did everything quickly, I liked it.

Customer #2991

My friends tried to persuade me not to use any writing service but I had no time and chance to fail. Thesis had to be perfect and on time. I had doubts at first but still decided to give it a try. You ROCK! Only 2 revisions and it was accepted. Thank you again and good luck to my writer!

Estimated Deadline: Tuesday, Dec 12 3:40 AM in Your timezone
Total price: $11.23
Price starts from $11.23
Regular discounts and offers
Excellent results guaranteed
Professional 24/7 support

Free samples of our work

There are different types of essays: narrative, persuasive, compare\contrast, definition and many many others. They are written using a required citation style, where the most common are APA and MLA. We want to share some of the essays samples written on various topics using different citation styles.

Hey, you...Yes, you! Don’t you want to get your Discount?
Your discount will be
sent to the email!

I have read and agree to the Terms of Use, Money Back Guarantee, Privacy and Cookie Policy of BestCustomWriting.com

  • dmca_logo
  • safecharge
  • trustpilot

Use your opportunity to get a discount!

To get your special discount, write your email below

  • dmca_logo
  • safecharge
  • trustpilot

Best papers and best prices!

Want to get quality paper done on time cheaper?

  • dmca_logo
  • safecharge
  • trustpilot