Which past tense when writing about history?


English - US
Which past tense is supposed to be used in historical accounts? After learning about the difference between the -di and -miş forms, the former to be used for direct observations and the latter for reported events, I assumed that the reported past would be used for most historical accounts, since the people writing about them didn't personally observe them. But, to verify that, I looked at a history article on Wikipedia, and it uses the direct past. If that's normal, then I guess "reported past" is misleadingly broad. What, in that case, are the limitations on the use of that tense?
  • Rallino

    Reported past is not used in academic/encyclopaedical contexts.

    The goal of the reported past is to let the audience know that you didn't witness an event, so that they can imagine the context more healthily. For instance, if I say "X attacked Y", but that I didn't use the reported past, then the listeners would think I was there and could ask "Then why didn't you stop X?". If I had used the reported past, that specific question would never have arisen.

    This is entirely different for scientific contexts. We, as the audience, aren't interested in the author's personal experience. We're simply trying to find out what happened. It's obvious that the author couldn't have witnessed an event that happened a millennium ago.

    Children's stories do make use of the -miş tense. They have the innate nature of being passed down from generation to generation, and it's just stylistically fitting to add that "hey, so I've heard from ... who heard from ... that once upon a time" effect.


    Senior Member
    -mış kind of means, among other things, to "have heard this and that happened." You don't know for sure that thing happened. You just happened to learn it and tell it to others. So it would be awkward for a history article to involve -mış forms, as it should be based on verified facts.