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Grade 8 English
2.27 In Summaries, Keep to One Tense

  • In summarizing the action of a drama, use the present tense.
  • In summarizing a poem, story, or novel, preferably use the present, though you may use the past if you prefer.
  • If the summary is in the present tense, antecedent action should be expressed by the perfect; if in the past, by the past perfect.

    An unforeseen chance prevents Friar John from delivering Friar Lawrence’s letter to Romeo. Juliet, meanwhile, owing to her father’s arbitrary change of the day set for her wedding, has been compelled to drink the potion on Tuesday night, with the result that Balthasar informs Romeo of her supposed death before Friar Lawrence learns of the nondelivery of the letter.

  • Regardless of the tense used in a summary, a past tense in indirect discourse or in indirect question remains unchanged.

    The Legate inquires who struck the blow.

  • Apart from the exceptions noted, whichever tense you choose, you should use it throughout. Shifting from one tense to the other gives the appearance of uncertainty and irresolution.
  • In presenting the statements or the thought of someone else, as in summarizing an essay or reporting a speech, the writer should avoid intercalating such expressions as “he said,” “he stated,” “the speaker added,” “the speaker then went on to say,” “the author also thinks,” or the like. He should indicate clearly at the outset, once for all, that what follows is summary, and then waste no words in repeating the notification.

Directions: Use the above rules and write a summary of an article that you read recently.