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Why “I win” instead of “I won”?

My friend and I are designing the "game over" screen for a game we are developing, and I'm thinking of putting "you lost" into the screen design but my friend said it should be "you lose" instead. I'm a bit confused because since the screen is shown after the player lost the game, shouldn't it be in past tense? Yet, I found many images on the web showing "you lose" instead. Should it really be "you lose" instead of "you lost", and why?

Similarly for victory screen, is it "you win" or "you won"?

marked as duplicate by user2683, Marthaª, Daniel, PLL, kiamlaluno Oct 31 '11 at 7:20

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"You lose" is more in the present which is probably what you are looking for in a computer game. You should also consider that computer game screens aren't generally judged on their grammatical content.

Unless of course you are building the first, first-person grammatical shooter. In which you must hunt a viscous gerund through a labyrinth of simile and metaphor.

  • 8
    I would play that game. – Sam Oct 25 '11 at 16:04
  • Are you suggesting that I should follow the crowd rather than following the grammar in this matter? – Lukman Oct 25 '11 at 16:19
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    Although if the grammar is bad enough, it can become a meme and make your game more famous, a la, All your base are belong to us. – Dusty Oct 25 '11 at 16:19
  • "the first, first-person grammatical shooter" - that reminds me of the brilliant Typing of the Dead. – Hugo Oct 25 '11 at 19:41
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    +1 for "hunt a viscous gerund through a labyrinth of simile and metaphor", I am still chuckling – Josh Oct 25 '11 at 21:25

I think either way is correct. You are describing an event which is happenning at this moment. So at the moment that the player loses the game, it is present tense: "You lose." A second later the game is over and it is past tense: "You lost."

Many present-tense statements are only present tense at the instant they are written. The fact that I am reading it later does not make it an error. Like if Julius Caesar wrote, "I am crossing the Rubicon", of course by the time I read this two thousand years later it is long since past tense. But at the time Caesar wrote it, it was present tense. It would be silly to criticize him on the grounds that the event is now past and thus he should have used the past tense.

Similarly with your message. At the instant you display it, it is present tense: the event just happenned. By the time the player reads it and the shock of his humiliating defeat impinges on his feeble brain, it is past tense.

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