I'm writing an assignment description. Users have to push one of two buttons on a robot. They are referred to as "left" and "right". Once the user pushes one of the buttons, the robot will take an action. Here is the current way it's written:

If the left button was pressed, the robot will rotate counter-clockwise. If the right button was pressed, the robot will rotate clockwise.

My issue(s) is that the button pressing is in the past tense, the rotation is in the future tense, and everything is based on conditions that may or may not happen. Is what I wrote grammatically correct? If not, what is?

  • Simple present tense in the if -clause or when -clause has a future denotation. If the left button is pressed/When the left button is pressed, ... will do. Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 17:25

1 Answer 1


I don't think this is a big issue. However, there are several ways to rephrase the description without using the past tense or the passive voice, for example:

  • Pressing the left button makes the robot rotate counter-clockwise. Pressing the right button makes it rotate clockwise.
  • Pressing the left button rotates the robot counter-clockwise. Pressing the right button makes rotates it clockwise.
  • To rotate the robot counter-clockwise, press the left button. To rotate it clockwise, press the right button.
  • Press the left button to rotate the robot counter-clockwise. Press the right button to rotate it clockwise.

The first two versions are more descriptive; the two other versions are written as instructions.

  • I agree that there's nothing ungrammatical with mixing the verb tenses in the original sentences. Commented Aug 15, 2018 at 18:29

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