Recently I was confused by the tense usage of a text from New Concept English, the text says:

Verrazano, an Italian about whom little is known, sailed into New York Harbour in 1524 and named it Angouleme. He described it as 'a very agreeable situation located within two small hills in the midst of which flowed a great river.' Though Verrazano is by no means considered to be a great explorer, his name will probably remain immortal, for on November 21st, 1964, the longest suspension bridge in the world was named after him. The Verrazano Bridge, which was designed by Othmar Ammann, joins Brooklyn to Staten Island. It has a span of 4260 feet. The bridge is so long that the shape of the earth had to be taken into account by its designer. Two great towers support four huge cables. The towers are built on immense underwater platforms made of steel and concrete.

Please pay attention to the word I set BOLD. My question are: 1. why use "flowed" not "flows"? 2. Shouldn't we use "were built" because the bridge had been built when the author wrote this text? and if we use 'are built' to emphasize it is a fact, while we use 'was designed' in the first sentence of the second phrase?

1 Answer 1

  1. Flowed appears to be in a quotation, so the word has to remain as written.
  2. The design is complete, so was designed is in the past to indicate that fact. Are built is the present form of to be followed by the past participle of build acting as a predicate complement. It means "the towers supports are underwater platforms", and are, the present tense, is used here because the supports are a matter of current and ongoing fact.
  • Thanks for answering. I may need some time to think over an over before I can truely understand. ^_^ Thanks again.
    – Explorar
    May 8, 2016 at 9:08
  • @Explorar Towers are built has the copular structure "X is Y"; which was designed by OA has the passive structure "X is acted upon by Y". This can be confusing because they both contain a form of the verb to be followed by a past participle. Let me know if it's still unclear.
    – deadrat
    May 8, 2016 at 16:12
  • 1
    To make it more semantically clear: “The towers were built” is a passive construction that emphasises the act or process of building. “The towers are built on…” is a stative construction that emphasises the state the towers are in. It is similar to “the towers are located in…”, which also does not say anything about anyone doing the act of putting them there—just that they are there. Jul 7, 2016 at 17:04

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