historical present

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historical present

n.
The present tense used in the narration of events set in the past.
Our Living Language When telling stories about past events, people often switch into present tense, as in I was walking home from work one day. All of a sudden this man comes up to me and says.... This phenomenon, called the historical present, has a long history in English and is found in numerous other languages, both ancient and modern. Linguists have sometimes suggested that the historical present makes stories more vivid primarily by bringing past actions into the immediate present. However, it has been noted that, no matter how exciting stories are, the speakers never use present tense verbs exclusively—even when relating the most crucial events. In addition, past and present tense alternations tend to occur only between events that are markedly different. In other words, tense alternation usually does not occur when two verbs are viewed as belonging to one larger event. For example, two verbs joined by and that share the same subject tend to share the same tense as well, especially when the subject appears only once, just before the first verb, as in Those two people came in and sat down. It seems, then, that the historical present serves more to separate events within stories than to bring stories to life. One interesting exception to this is the verb say: its tense alternations do not seem regular; in addition, its third person present form says is also used in nonstandard narration with I, as in So I says to the guy, I says....
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

historical present

n
(Linguistics) the present tense used to narrate past events, usually employed in English for special effect or in informal use, as in a week ago I'm walking down the street and I see this accident
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014

histor′ical pres′ent


n.
the present tense used in narrating a past event.
[1960–65]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.historical present - the use of the present tense to describe past actions or states
present tense, present - a verb tense that expresses actions or states at the time of speaking
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.
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In part two she looks at narratological studies, distribution of narrative activity, narrative presentation, the historic present, the proximal deictic pronoun, and ex eventu knowledge.
Thus, Toolan points out that in one computational comparison the word says surfaced as a keyword only because the foregrounded text is in historic present while the twentieth-century background reference corpus naturally is not dense with narratives in the historic present (27).
Absent subject-verb agreement obtains in the present tense, somewhat less in the past tense, and even less in the historic present. (Past tense and the historic present both refer to past time).
Moments later I nearly have my head sliced off by a foam Viking axe thoughtfully presented as a useful historic present by a well-meaning aunt.
73-113), investigates the correlation between the "historic present tense" in Old Icelandic and the definite article.
1297).) For greater immediacy (impact on the reader's imagination) we have the increased use of the historic present, the 'style entrecoupe', and dialogue without the formulae of presentation.
In terms of aspect, it is used to express the imperfective in either the past or non-past and the perfective in the non-past (historic present, future).

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