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Unit 11: Lesson 3

Writing: Grammar

Writing: Verb Tense and Mood — Video Lesson

David shows you how to approach a Verb Tense question on the SAT Writing and Language test. Created by David Rheinstrom.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user zackburg24
    Why did you do this to us; we need help.
    (5 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user lolen
    does has+verb imply the same thing as had+verb does?
    (1 vote)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      "Has" is present tense, while "had" is past tense. When you use has + a verb, this is called the perfect tense and is used to describe an action that has occurred before the tense, and that had a result. The sentence "Usnavi has never run a mile" means that Usnavi has never run a mile, at the point of saying so.
      Now, for had+verb, this means that you have an action that occurred in the past, but its result and those effects also happened in the past, just a more recent past. It may sound confusing when explained like that, and that's because there isn't much difference between them. The past perfect is used to describe events that occurred in the past, but their result also happened in the past before something else which happens in the present. For example, you could say that "Usnavi had never run a mile, until he signed up for track and field in 9th grade". This means that Usnavi did not run a mile until a moment in the past. After that moment (9th grade), Usnavi would have run miles.
      I get that that may be a confusing explanation, please reply to this if I could make it any clearer.
      (5 votes)

Video transcript

- [Instructor] We are looking at question 29. Let me go back a sentence or two. This is about Michelangelo's statue of David in Florence: Michelangelo took on the Giant with zeal and finished the statue in just two years. The statue's form and posture echoed the proportions of classical Roman sculpture, but its expressiveness and level of detail has reflected Renaissance sensibilities. And our choices are all different forms of that same verb. So we have choice A is no change, that's has reflected, choice B is reflected, choice C is had reflected, and choice D is will reflect. This is therefore a question about verb tense or how verbs change depending on when they take place in time. And take a moment here if you want to pause the video and see if you can solve this question without me. All right, let's do it. One of our top tips with verb tense questions is to look closely at the tenses of the other verbs in the paragraph to see what we can learn. So in this paragraph alone, I see took, finished, echoed, right? All the other verbs in these two sentences are in the past tense. And in our target sentence, I don't see anything that would require a shift from one tense to another. The author is describing first the form and posture of the sculpture and then the expressiveness and level of detail. Because the other verbs are all in the past tense, I feel confident that this sentence takes place in the past. And that's enough to take out choices A and D, because has reflected is present tense. When you see a two verb phrase, look for the helper verb because that will tell you the tense of the phrase. And choice D, will reflect, is future tense which is, again, not the past. So that leaves us with choices B and C, reflected and had reflected. And I would say again, to look at the context and match the other verbs. The other verbs in this paragraph don't use had, and we use had plus a main verb to show that an action is complete, that it's over and done with. So had reflected would suggest that the statue, which from the context of the paragraph we know is brand new, that that statute had reflected Renaissance sensibilities but perhaps no longer did. And it doesn't seem to me like the author is trying to make that kind of subtle, complicated point. I don't wanna overthink this either. The other verbs don't have a helper so our choice shouldn't either. So I'm gonna knock out C and that means that our choice is B, reflected. So this is my strategy. Once I realized that this question is asking me about verb tense, here's what I do. First, I review the context to make sure that I understand what's going on. Is the sentence in the present or the past tense? And second, I check the other nearby verbs to consider if a verb tense shift makes sense or not. And it usually doesn't. And finally, I match that tense in a logical way. Good luck out there. You've got this.