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Hi,

I've heard that present tense should be used in writing a book report.

1. Could anyone let me know whether this is true?

2. If the answer to Q1 is "yes", is it wrong for me to use past tense?

Thanks.

Kathy
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hi

Yes and no. eg you have finsihed reading the book then no it should be past if you are still reading the book it should be present
Hi,

I've heard that present tense should be used in writing a book report.

1. Could anyone let me know whether this is true?

2. If the answer to Q1 is "yes", is it wrong for me to use past tense?

It's your choice. It often depends on what you want to talk about.

We do often use a kind of 'narrative present tense' when talking about a story. eg

In 'A Tale of Two Cities', Dickens sets his story against the background of the Revolution which is happening in France

The character of Sydney Carton sacrifices his life for his love'.

But you can also say things like 'This novel was very successful when it was first published'.

Clive
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Kathy456I've heard that present tense should be used in writing a book report.
I haven't heard this, but I suppose you would say, "The title of the book is ...", not "The title of the book was ...", so you may need the present tense for certain sentences. And you would probably say, "The book was written in 1970", not "The book is written in 1970", so you may need the past tense for certain sentences.

I don't see that you would write the entire report in either the present or the past. It depends on what you say.

You can, however, describe the plot of the book in the present tense if you wish:

The protagonist accomplishes his goal by ...

But the past seems equally good.

CJ

Edit: Hmm. Clive's post wasn't there when I started this reply. Consequently, I've just said almost the same thing again.
Hi CalifJim/Clive,

Thanks very much for your prompt advice.

By the way, I've got a couple of follow-up questions:-

1. When I want to refer to something which "had happened" in the story, should I still follow the "narrative present tense" principle, e.g.

a. I feel pity for Oliver because his best friend betrays (or betrayed) him.

b. When Oliver is (or was) six, his mother is (or was) killed in an accident.

2. When I'd like to talk about the, kind of, personalities of the characters, should I use present tense or past tense, e.g.

a. Oliver is (or was) a lonely boy.

b. Oliver is (or was) very clever.

Thanks again.

Kathy
Hi,

By the way, I've got a couple of follow-up questions:-

1. When I want to refer to something which "had happened" in the story, should I still follow the "narrative present tense" principle, e.g.

a. I feel pity for Oliver because his best friend betrays (or betrayed) him. I'd say 'has betrayed him', ie sometime in theppast before the 'historic present'.

b. When Oliver is (or was) six, his mother is (or was) killed in an accident. Here, I'd stick with the present, ie . . . is . . . is . . .

2. When I'd like to talk about the, kind of, personalities of the characters, should I use

present tense Yes or past tense, e.g.

a. Oliver is (or was) a lonely boy.

b. Oliver is (or was) very clever.

Clive
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Hi Clive,

Thanks a lot for your prompt reply. It's really very very helpful to me.

Kathy
How would you still be reading a book, and at the same time write the book report////

You first finish reading the book, THEN you write the book report.

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The primary style guide for discussing literature (including book reports) is the MLA Manual.

According to the MLA, present tense is used.

The idea behind this is that even though a story has present, future, and past in it, that every time someone picks up that book and begins reading anew, those 'tenses' start over.

So instead of "John ate a pizza then Mike drank a beer while Julie was speaking" you would say "John eats a pizza then Mike drinks a beer while Julie is speaking".

You do this because you are discussing a series of events within a story. You are doing this in the present and the book exists in the present.

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If you don't follow this logic, then if you discussed a book occurring in the past in past tense, would you also have to discuss a book set in the future (such as a futuristic sci fi novel) using the future tense??
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