19th century and present tense

Discussion in 'English Only' started by distille, Feb 14, 2007.

  1. distille Senior Member

    France, french
    Hello,
    can I use the present tense after telling the action happened in the past.
    Can I say something like: In the 19th century, industries of textile attracts talented workers.
    Or must I stick with the preterit?
    thanks
     
  2. jess oh seven

    jess oh seven Senior Member

    Scotland
    UK/US, English
    If you are NARRATING, I believe it is perfectly fine to use the historic present.

    Textile industries attract skilled workers....
     
  3. Old Novice

    Old Novice Senior Member

    Massachusetts
    USA, English
    I think you have to use "attracted", not "attracts." (I've made a couple of other suggestions, too. :))
     
  4. distille Senior Member

    France, french
    thank you, it sounded right but I wanted to be sure. Yes, it is a narration.
     
  5. Old Novice

    Old Novice Senior Member

    Massachusetts
    USA, English
    My response was due to the introductory phrase, "in the 19th century." I agree that you could adopt a present voice in a narration in which the context had already been established, but to my ear, that just doesn't work with the introductory phrase in the same sentence. :)

    Edit: How about this:

    "Put yourself in the 19th century. The textile industry attracts skilled workers. ..."
     
  6. distille Senior Member

    France, french
    Now I am lost!
    The document i'm translating is a presentation of the economic history of a town. The original French text uses the present tense to describe the past.
    Does that help you to determine if I can or cannot use the present tense in sentences such as the one I wrote before?
    Most of my sentences start with an indication of the period (19th century, 20 century)

    thanks for the corrections
     
  7. jess oh seven

    jess oh seven Senior Member

    Scotland
    UK/US, English
    ^ I see what you mean. If it is already clear what time frame you are talking about, using the present tense sounds fine. But if you are introducing a time frame, it does sound a little off, since it's obviously in the past.
     
  8. Old Novice

    Old Novice Senior Member

    Massachusetts
    USA, English
    Thanks for the extra context. In that case, I think you need a past tense in English.
     
  9. distille Senior Member

    France, french
    Thanks both for your help.
    I will stick with the past tense for sentences starting with a time reference. I cannot change the tone of the text, so I have to avoid making it nicer than it is;-)! But I keep the 'Put yourself in the 19c' trick for another time!
     
  10. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If the style of the narrative permits, you could use the present tense throughout.
    In the 18th century, the development of mechanisation leads to the gradual reduction of cottage industry. By the 19th century, the industrial revolution is gaining momentum and creating new centres of population close to the new manucturing facilities.

    The history is nonsense, I am sure, but the style is familiar - from popular rather than academic presentations. It makes me squirm, but it is used in English.
     
  11. distille Senior Member

    France, french
    thanks, I have learnt a few things today.
    But i'd rather not use a style that makes people squirm!
     

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