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I want to build a sentence referring to the past, present and future:

  1. The Bible was, and continues to be, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.
  2. The Bible was, and should still be, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.
  3. The Bible was, and must still be, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.
  4. The Bible was, and still to be, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.
  5. The Bible was, and is still to be, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

which one is more correct? Please don't hesitate to come up with a totally different sentence but with a similar meaning. Thank you in advance.

closed as off-topic by tchrist, David M, choster, Mari-Lou A, anongoodnurse Apr 5 '14 at 23:15

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2

Your sentences have rather different meanings:

The Bible was, and continues to be, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

This tells us that the Bible was in the past, and continues through to the present to be instrumental. It makes no value judgment about whether this should be the case, nor does it make any definite prediction about the distant future.

The Bible was, and should still be, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

The Bible was, and must still be, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

Both of these are value judgments. They tell us that the Bible used to be instrumental, and then state that it should still be instrumental (but don't specify whether it actually is or not) now. Little is said in either of the distant future, only the desired (or required) present condition.

The Bible was, and still to be, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

This is not correct.

The Bible was, and is still to be, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

This reads poorly, but is the only one of the options that says anything about the future. edit: I think that it excludes the present, though I'm also not sure that it is correct in the first place.


If you wish to describe a condition that is true in three time states, you may simply have to describe each of those states, ala "He who was, is, and is yet to come":

The Bible was, is, and will continue to be instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

This describes both the past, present, and future conditions, but makes no assertion regarding what those states should be/have been.

Some alternatives for "will continue to be" that don't significantly alter meaning:

"will remain", "will be", "will still be" (not "still to be"), "will yet be", etc.

You could omit the "is" in some cases, where the second verb implies continuity (e.g. "will remain" and perhaps "will still be" but not just "will be"):

The Bible was and will continue to be instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

Another alternative is to use a simple base sentence, and add information through supporting clauses. For example, the simple:

The Bible remains instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

All by itself, this already tells us that this state began some time in the past and continues through the present to some time in the future. It doesn't tell us how far in the past or in the future, however, and it places the emphasis on the continuing present rather than the other two extremes. You could expand it as such:

From the time of Christ down to our own day, the Bible remains instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

or

From its inception, the Bible has remained, and will remain, instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind.

or

The Bible remains instrumental in spreading God's message to mankind, as it should.

or ... if I continued to enumerate the possibilities I would face a similar (though less severe) problem to the one John faced in describing all the things Jesus said and did. Suffice to say there are a few more.


The choice between each of the above ultimately boils down to what you need to emphasize, and what your article is going to cover. If you are going to specifically look at all three (past, present, future) in your article, then by all means include all three (was, is, and will be/continue to be/remain/etc.) in your introduction. If your article will argue that this should be the case, include that. Otherwise, only include the parts you will actually discuss.

  • +1 for the thorough individual explanations. Can you please iterate your suggested sentence more? Can I use ...will ever be... instead of the ...continue to be? – doctorate Apr 2 '14 at 17:59
  • Hmmm. Not "will ever be", but let me update my answer with a few other alternatives. – Wlerin Apr 2 '14 at 18:00
  • Actually, before I do that, what specifically are you going for? Are you going to write this several times and wish to avoid repetition (so the meaning is identical)? Do you want to also suggest that this should be the case? Do you want a more "Biblical" sounding variant? – Wlerin Apr 2 '14 at 18:02
  • This is to be used once as an opening sentence of an article about the Bible and its translations. should be is optional. A Biblical variant is welcomed of course. – doctorate Apr 2 '14 at 18:05
  • I don't understand your end goal. Wlerin wrote an excellent response to your question with multiple reasons why you should or shouldn't use a certain varation. If you have some sort of agenda, don't hide it. It's not ethical to be dishonest in your writing. – xserf Apr 2 '14 at 18:45

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