I'm writing a novel in present-tense. If all the actions are in the present-tense, e.g. as the character is experiencing them, does the phrase, "I spend the next few hours pondering about it" make sense then? Doesn't it seem like a flashback instead?

I know in past-tense this would be no problem.


  • 1
    It caused a cognitive clash for me when I read it. Maybe in the wider context of the story with all the other instances of present-tense it wouldn't be so bad. Perhaps "I decide to spend the next few hours..." However, as I said, out of context it's hard to be sure. P.S. You might consider putting this type of question in writers.stackexchange.com -- I'm sure others there will have experienced the same difficulty. – chasly from UK Nov 4 '15 at 14:26
  • One way to accomplish this would be to start pondering the problem, and then realize that time had passed. – rajah9 Dec 4 '15 at 16:44
  • I see my answer below was not liked by someone. @chaslyfromUK is absolutely right about the cognitive clash, and that is directly related to the part of the statement that reads "...the next few hours..." This is in the future, from the perspective of the statement. However, there is an acceptable use of this phrase in common usage when speaking of a sequence/chain of events. For example, "Every morning, I get up, stretch, put on my slippers, get the mail, and spend the next few minutes checking my email." The larger context is needed to answer your question. – Tim Ward Jan 4 '16 at 13:44
  • You want to express a time period, and a considerable period at that, using the present tense. I do not think this is a problem of English but a problem of time. If you only want to refer to now, how can you express the passage of time? One possibility is describing events, listing the actions and external events that suggest the passage of hours (like describing a clock hands positions, or the sound in the street, or the position/light from the Sun). – Pablo Straub Feb 24 '16 at 3:01
  • Personally, I would recommend a scene break. – Xavon_Wrentaile Sep 11 '16 at 4:49

The problem here is that you're trying to speak of the future using the present tense. There are a few ways to accomplish this in English.

I will spend the next few hours...

I shall spend...

I have decided to spend...

I am spending...

I will be spending...

I should be spending... (but probably won't)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.