When the subject is certain creation (created in the past) where there cannot be changes, like:

The published book / The proposed plan / The play "Romeo and Juliet" / The poster that won the 2014 best poster award / The song "Candle in the wind" written by Elton John etc.

and the VERB refers to something in the subject that will not change (examples of the verbs are

contains / explains / covers / features / describes etc. )

should present tense be always used? Any exceptions?

The following are scenarios I can think of and what tenses I consider correct.

(1) The old book describes how to use Microsoft Word 97.

(2) The proposed plan is lengthy and covers many unnecessary details.

(3) The proposed plan contains useful information about the cost and manpower needed.

(4) The poster that won the 2014 best poster award features different types of concerts held in that year.

(5) The song "Candle in the wind" written by Elton John includes the lyrics “xxx xxx".

(6) The book explains why the author disliked cats.

(7) The book is / was / will be very helpful to teenagers (connection with something external, so the tense varies)

(8) The book became / has become / will become very popular (connection with something external, so the tense varies)

I will appreciate any answers to my questions. Thanks a lot.

  • Yes. The existential statements are enduring and so the present is correct; the effects / popularity / valuation ... of a work is devotee / appraiser / critic-dependent and in their time-frame. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 19 at 15:56
  • Examples (7) and (8) are not the only ones that involve connection with something external. The information that was once useful (example (3)) may not be useful any more, the details that are now unnecessary (example (2)) may have been necessary in the past. – jsw29 Jun 19 at 17:18

It depends what you want the sentence to mean. Tenses are there to provide information.


The book contained valuable information. (This means the book did contain the information in the past but now perhaps the writing has faded or the book has been destroyed)

The book contains valuable information. (The book is still in existence and still contains the information)

The book is very helpful to teenagers. Teenagers read this book and find it helpful.

The book was very helpful to teenagers. Nowadays the book is no longer helpful because it was written in Victorian times.

The book will be very helpful to teenagers. Teenagers who read this book in the future will find it helpful.

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