I'm writing a speech for someone who will be speaking about events in the past. Specifically, he/she will review events in certain years in the past, which are presented as "trivia". For example, for 1981, he/she might say "...in 1981 the wreck of the Titanic was found." Or "...is found."? I was so sure it should be past tense, but now I'm not so sure. Is it present because the year being discussed will always exist in our present recollection of it? Thanks in advance for any help.


3 Answers 3


As Silenus said, you are trying to chose between the simple past tense and the historical present tense. Either are acceptable, but the speaker should choose one or the other, for the most part, and not switch back and forth randomly.


The historical present is an affectation that is used pretentiously to give a spurious immediacy to an account of the past. It is often used by academics who strive for the urgency of the present when trying to enliven the past. Use the simple past and the tale will be told much more clearly and forcefully.


You're writing for a speaker so you should use the grammar of spoken English which isn't the same as the grammar of written English. 'Was' is the answer. 'Is' might have been correct in the 19th cent but not today. It would confuse the ears of the audience. Might I suggest that you read your text aloud. Anything that doesn't sit well in the mouth should be changed.

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