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use of "now" with past tense

Discussion in 'English Only' started by rubes1, Sep 21, 2006.

  1. rubes1 Senior Member

    Israel
    United States, English
    What do you guys think of the use of now in the past tense. See example sentence below. I know it is used all the time, but is it incorrect usage? Should the "now" be changed to "then"?

    I'd appreciate your feedback. Thanks. :)

    "Similar events transpired following the war in 2003, but now there was no central government to fend off or counter the tribal powers."
     
  2. I think it is akward, probably a mistake?
     
  3. rubes1 Senior Member

    Israel
    United States, English
    Badgrammar, thanks. I hear it all the time, but people also make other grammar mistakes all the time. The question is, is it gramatically incorrect?If so, how would you fix it? Would you say "then" instead?
     
  4. It seems strange because it is in the past instead of being in the present narrative tense (are those real terms?), if you wanted to use "now", I think you'd need to say

    "Similar events transpire following the war in 2003, but now there is no central government to fend off or counter the tribal powers."

    Instinctively I'd say you should not use it with the past tense, but for some strange reason, nobody ever believes my grammar advice :D!!!
     
  5. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    "by then" or "at that time"
     
  6. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    I'd say "at the time."

    Elisabetta
     
  7. gwrthgymdeithasol Senior Member

    English, Wales
    In spite of what others think here, I'd say there's nothing wrong/incorrect/illiterate/stupid about using 'now' in the past. It's typical media usage, but I wouldn't hesitate to use it myself.

    "We were happy. Today we were going to the beach." Delete today because it can't refer to the past??
     
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Or indeed:
    "We were happy. Tomorrow we were going to the beach."
     
  9. Kenneth Garland

    Kenneth Garland Senior Member

    Bristol, UK
    UK, English
    I agree with gwrth... It adds a bit of immediacy to the account.

    I'm surprised so many forers object to it, particularly from America, given that historians and media types on TV obsessively use the present tense to describe events in the past!
     
  10. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Why grammatically?
    One of the meanings of now is then (at the point in the series of the events), thus, it seems that there's nothing wrong with it in your sentence.:)

    Tom

     
  11. TrentinaNE Senior Member

    USA
    English (American)
    I can see using this construction in casual speech and literature. In non-fiction writing of any substance, it would bug the heck out of me!

    Elisabetta
     
  12. petereid

    petereid Senior Member

    selby yorkshire
    english
    We had got to the end of the via principale. Now we had to make a decision, to Milan or Rome?
     
  13. gwrthgymdeithasol Senior Member

    English, Wales
    Or how about:

    "We were happy. Now it was tomorrow, yesterday was history, and we were going to the beach."

    Have people no imagination? ;-)
     
  14. Porteño Senior Member

    Buenos Aires
    British English
    I entirely agree with you gwrth..., I see nothing wrong with this structure.
     
  15. roxcyn

    roxcyn Senior Member

    USA
    American English [AmE]
    I think the writer is using "but now" (the whole phrase) as a conjunction. For example: Well now in place of well. You can replace it in the sentence:

    "Similar events transpired following the war in 2003; well now there was no central government to fend off or counter the tribal powers."

    However, someone could make it more clearer by:

    using all present tense
    replacing "but now" with "at that time"/then
     
  16. Lucretia Senior Member

    Russian
    I second Thomas1 - it's just this peculiar feature of the English language - the semantic field produces some strikingly different plants from the same seeds, depending on the kind of soil (=context).
     
  17. dplawlis Junior Member

    United States English
    It seems the general consensus is that "now" being used in the past tense is okay, which I agree with, but I thought I would add a citation from Merriam-Webster Unabridged in order to add some authority to this conclusion. This is the sixth entry in Merriam-Webster Unabridged for "now" as an adverb: at the time under consideration : at the time referred to <the people now proceeded to give him almost every important honor within their gift -- E.M.Coulter>

    [SIZE=-1]"now." Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002. http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com (27 Nov. 2012).[/SIZE]

    I hope this helps.
     
  18. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    London
    English - British
    It is perfectly correct and standard. Chambers English Dictionary (1990) gives :
    now at the present time, or the time in question;

    In the original post, it is the second of these meanings which is intended.
    It means effectively 'in the new circumstances'.

    "Similar events transpired following the war in 2003, but in the new circumstances there was no central government to fend off or counter the tribal powers."
     

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