I'm wondering whether I should use the present tense for a descriptive statement but in a past context. For example:

(1) I went to the zoo and saw a giraffe last week.

(2) A giraffe is a mammal with long neck.

(3) It is the first time I see that animal with my own eyes.

Statement (2) is a description of a giraffe in general, not the specific one in the zoo, so is it correct to use is?

Statement (3) is an event that is still true now, so should I use is and see?

I'm not native speaker so forgive me if the question is very obvious to others.

  • (2) needs an article in front of giraffe. Either a or the would work, but you shouldn't leave it without an article.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 13:00
  • @ws2 so the correct statement is "A giraffe is a mammal..."?
    – hrsetyono
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 13:04
  • Yes. You could also say The giraffe is a mammal (meaning giraffes in general). Or Giraffes are mammals. Either of those would be idiomatic. But NOT Giraffe is a mammal.
    – WS2
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 13:48
  • The first is is correct. The last sentence ought to be It was the first time I had seen that animal with my own eyes.
    – Anonym
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 19:32
  • 2

1 Answer 1


You're giving a descriptive account of a past event, despite the facts still being true, it would be advisable to use the past tense of verbs. Your 2nd statement is fine, as you're presenting someone with the character of a Giraffe, in case they don't know about the animal but after that the account relates back to the past event i.e your experience at the zoo. You saw the animal with your own eyes and it was the first time that you had this experience

  • Wait, should I say "Appreciated it!"?
    – hrsetyono
    Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 10:15
  • Appreciate it, is correct, you're welcome. Commented Mar 6, 2015 at 10:15

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