When editing for a valedictory occasion, I came across this: "Prof. Li holds the XXX Professorship from 2007 to 2012." It is the tense of "holds" that baffles me.

If the sentence was one of the following three, then I would not have been baffled:

(1) "Prof. Li is holding the XXX Professorship."

(2) ""Prof. Li holds the XXX Professorship."

(3) "Prof. Li has been holding the XXX Professorship from 2007." -- this means his is still holding it and the sentence does not tell when this holding of Professorship will end.

But the situation is that Prof. Li's XXX Professorship will end with his leaving the university in June -- the duration of his Professorship is(was?) from 2007 to June 2012. So what tense should I use. I am doubtful that "Prof. Li HOLDS the XXX Professorship from 2007 to 2012" is correct.

  • I presume the valedictory speech will be given before the XXX Professorship ends. Is that correct? Maybe you could just say "Prof. Li has held the XXX Professorship for five years." (You aren't specific with the start month, so maybe you don't need to be with the end of his professorship.)
    – JLG
    May 9 '12 at 5:23
  • It seems that there is no way to specify a beginning date in the past and an end date in the future using just one tense (I ALWAYS BELIEVE THAT 'TENSE' IS NOT NECESSARY IN LANGUAGE!), then will it be better to use "is holding" instead of "holds" in the above sentence?
    – YONG
    May 9 '12 at 7:40
  • I'm not sure I understand your question. Saying "Prof. Li has held the XXX Professorship for five years [or since 2007]" means that he still holds the position.
    – JLG
    May 9 '12 at 11:49

There is a verb tense called "Historical Present" where you use the present tense to refer to things that happened in the past. It is often used in résumés and CVs, and that may be how it crept into the bio. However, using it is tricky and not generally appropriate for introducing a speaker.

If you do not want to specify the end date, it is perfectly fine to say Prof. Li has been holding the XXX Professorship since 2007. If you want to specify a beginning date in the past and an end date in the future, the basic verb tenses do not cover that, so typically you end up with something like:

Prof. Li has held the XXX Professorship since 2007 and in June he will leave that position to pursue other opportunities.


I don't think there's a simple way to express this. Ideally, you would say, "Prof. Li has held this position since 2007", and not mention the end of his tenure at all, if it's in the future. Less elegantly, you could say that, and then add, "and he will continue in this position till June."


My initial reaction on reading the phrase was that the XXX Professorship is awarded for five-year terms, and that Professor Li is holding it for the 2007-2012 term. I may be completely wrong - but it would certainly explain why it was phrased the way it was. On the off chance that I'm right, I think I would rephrase it as Professor Li holds the XXX Professorship for the 2007-2012 term.

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