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A common error that appears in the writing of UTEP students is verb tense usage.  A common mistake is to switch tense throughout one’s essay, sometimes using a present form while using a past form at other points.  This is complicated by the fact that different citation styles have different rules for verb usage, with MLA preferring present tense (i.e. Daniels says) and APA preferring past tense (i.e. Daniels said).  It is important to be consistent throughout your writing projects by using the same tense throughout.  

Another common mistake in verb usage is subject-verb agreement. Singular verbs must be used with singular subjects, and plural verbs must be used with plural subjects. First-person verbs must be used with first-person pronoun subjects (I, we), second-person verbs must be used with second-person pronoun subjects (you), and third-person verbs must be used with third-person subjects (she, he, it, or they).

MLA and APA style reference research using different verb tenses.  You are likely most familiar with an MLA reference, which might look like this:

Norton argues that the deep sea sawtooth is the most dangerous fish in the world.

With APA style, which you will be using in 1311 and 1312, you can use the past or present perfect to reference research.  According to the APA Manual, “Use the past tense to express an action or a condition that occurred at a specific, definite time in the past, as when discussing another researcher’s work and when reporting your results” (p. 78).  Here is an example of a past tense citation:

Norton (2003) argued that the deep sea sawtooth is the most dangerous fish in the world.

Similarly, the APA Manual states, “Use the present perfect tense to express a past action or condition that did not occur at a specific, definite time or to describe an action beginning tin the past and continuing to the present” (p. 78).

Since that time, several investigators have used this method.The present perfect is also used to reference previous research, like in the following example:

Norton (2003) has argued that the deep sea sawtooth is the most dangerous fish in the world.


The following chart shows a few sentences with verb errors, explains the problem, and provides corrections:


This page was created by Todd Ruecker in July 2010.
   
     

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