tense change

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Senior Member
Source: Oxford University Press-Open Forum1-2 (one teacher and two students are talking about Romeo and Juliet)

Teacher: Can anyone give me a quick summary of the story?
Student: Well, Romeo and Juliet… they get married…secretly. And only Romeo and Juliet and their priest know about the wedding. After the wedding, Romeo gets in a fight and kills Juliet’s cousin and so he has to leave Verona. ...
Teacher: Good. Very good summary!

So, let’s take a closer look at Juliet. What did you think of her?
Student: I really liked her. I was kind of surprised how strongly she loved Romeo. She went against her whole family so she could be with him.

Why the author use past simple of "go"?
  • Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    The summary was explaining the events as they happen in the play - so the present tense was used.
    The student is now describing what happened in the play - looking back at the actions that had taken place [in the past] so "She went" agrees with "..she loved".
    What tense were you expecting?


    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, in giving the plot of a play, it is conventional to do it in the present tense as if it was all happening in front of you.

    For the second bit, notice that it is framed in the context of the student's reaction after reading the play: What did you think ...? I really liked her ... Because of that, I would expect the description of Juliet to be in the past tense also.


    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    In English it is conventional to summarize fiction, poetry, and plays on the simple present.

    In the same discussion, factual background or other information is presented in the past tense or another tense as required.

    Romeo and Juliet tells the story of doomed young love. Shakespeare wrote this play in the 1500s. Our school drama club will perform this play at the end of term.
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