51 PRS Proofreading and Editing Service PhD Experts • All Academic Areas • Fast Turnaround • High Quality 4.4.2 English Verbs: Tensing Up and Splitting Hairs If you have at times found yourself cursing the nature of English verbs, you might receive consolation from the fact that you are not alone. Even for native English speakers and writers proficient in the language, English can be a notoriously difficult language to use correctly, more so to use elegantly, and verbs are among the most troublesome aspects of English to negotiate. English verbs are often formed by a combination of separate words (‘to understand,’ ‘will have understood,’ ‘had understood,’ etc.) in a way very different from the conjugation of verbs in other languages. The nuances of the various forms (or tenses) communicate different temporal messages, and the problem is complicated in scholarly prose because referring accurately and effectively to the ideas and results found in sources can be challenging. Tense (present, perfect, pluperfect, etc.) is a key issue, and many a scholarly paragraph reporting information from sources breaks down because the tense of the verbs it uses is inconsistent or does not change according to the nature of the content. As a general rule, much of what is said in previous scholarship can be referred to in the present tense: for example, ‘Jones (1985) argues that…,’ ‘Parkes (1993) outlines three basic principles’ and ‘according to Johnson (2010), these results are….’ However, if you’re comparing or contrasting studies done at different times, you may need to vary the tense you use: ‘Jones (1985) argued [perfect] that the problem could not be overcome, but Johnson (2010) sheds [present] new light on the situation.’ Often using a compound form with ‘has’ or ‘have’ is more effective than a simple past or perfect tense when speaking of scholarly trends or developments: for instance, ‘In recent years, many studies have paid far more attention to…’ and ‘Since the 1990s, there have been several studies that….’ However, the studies you’re referring to were in fact conducted in the past, so the perfect tense, PARt II: PRePARIng, PResentIng And PolIsHIng YoUR woRk