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I'm working on definition essays. As I read a couple of sentences, I came up with a question. I'll appreciate your help:

"Two years ago, I read a story which revolved around the life of a spoiled family "--> Wouldn't it be more appropiate to use the present tense for "revolve around"?, as the story's plot was and still IS the same

Another example: "She said: 'I became a teacher because I want to change the world.' That got me thinking about what being a teacher really meant." -->Shouldn't the writer've said "means"??

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Wouldn't it be more appropiate to use the present tense for "revolve around"?, as the story's plot was and still IS the same

Sort of, but at the time you read it, it did revolve around the family. In a sense, the "revolving" happened when you read it, hence the past tense.

That got me thinking about what being a teacher really meant." -->Shouldn't the writer've said "means"??

Both are correct. I would say that "meant" infers "meant (to me), in my experience", whereas means might infer "means to society". There is a subtle semantic difference, but grammatically both are correct, and it is not really a question of tense (both are in the present tense).

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    Meant is no more present tense than got here. – TimLymington May 18 '15 at 11:18
  • I slightly disagree with your first answer, but only because my high school English teacher taught that literature is always referred to in the present tense. She could have been wrong, of course. Or it could have been a personal preference. – VampDuc May 18 '15 at 17:38
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Although the convention is to use the present tense when talking about a story ("The story is set in Rome") in this case the speaker is telling a story about reading a story two years ago. The past tense is therefore not incorrect: the story "revolved" around a spoiled family. However, if the speaker wanted to focus on the story itself (rather than upon the effect it may have had upon him when he read it two years ago, or on his involvement with it as reader) then the present tense would be appropriate.

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Two years ago, I read a story which revolved around the life of a spoiled family 

I think its correct like that because he is describing what happened. and he might not know if the story still revolves

That got me thinking about what being a teacher really meant.

If the teacher changed her view on what a teacher means then its correct, even if the teacher didn't change her meaning still correct because that's what she thought at that moment, but it sounds better "what it means" if she hasn't changed what a teacher means to her.

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