An abrupt change of tense in a dialogue

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jkerchek

Member
Cantonese
Here is the script of a dialogue between the presenter Lucy Worsley and Alexandra Loske, from the University of Sussex, talking about Princess Charlotte's laboring. I have extracted only the crucial sentences here. [------YouTube link deleted------]

Lucy:
He's talking here about a uterine discharge "of a dark green colour. That doesn't sound good.

Alexandra and Lucy read text together:
Eventually, Charlotte does give birth, after 50 hours of labour. The baby is stillborn. They rub his body with salt and mustard but no animation was ever restored.

Lucy:
That must have been so frustrating. He was legitimate, he'd come to term, he was the right gender, but then it all went wrong.

Alexandra: ....

Lucy:
And the mother seems to have survived, doesn't she?

At the beginning of the dialogue Lucy uses present tense talking about the matter or a situation. After reading a historical text written by Sir Richard Croft, she suddenly changed the tense from present to past. The dialogue turns from a situation to history. Alexandra follows her suit.
And then out of a sudden, she changes the tense back to present again. Why does she do so? What's so special about the sentence that she is using past tense?
 
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  • Ryx

    New Member
    English - Canada
    Hi jkerchek
    Are you referring to the word "seems" in particular here? I believe that if Lucy had used "seemed," that would imply that the mother no longer seems to have survived. She is talking about how the mother currently seems to have survived, while in the times when they use past tense, they are referring to events and states of mind that happened in the past (He was legitimate, that must have been frustrating, etc) and no longer apply to the present -- does this make sense?
     

    jkerchek

    Member
    Cantonese
    The conversation is mainly constructed with present tense.
    Even the last sentence said by Alexandra 'At midnight Charlotte started complaining about a singing in her ears and she feels unwell, she throws up. she dies at about 2:30 in the morning.'

    These, are accounting of history, should be all used with past tense. Why only states of mind is used with past tense?
     
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