Shifts in Verb Voice, Tense, Person, and Number created by: Eric Zellers Ilona Carlon-Plitt Ilona
Eric! Unnecessary Shifts in Sentences = Awkward Changes in Subject and Verb Forms
Shifts are BAD! Shift in Subject Notes Within a sentence a shift is a change from one subject to another or from one verb to another. Often shifts are acceptable because they are necessary to express the
meaning the writer intends. The smoothness of a sentence is affected by an unnecessary or awkward shift. Examples of Shift in Subject Awkward: A student should choose books from the reading
list so that you can be sure they are acceptable to the teacher. (The unnecessary shift from student to you is awkward is confusing) Examples of Shift in Subject (Cont)
Acceptable: A student should choose books from the reading list so that he or she can be sure they are acceptable to the teacher. Shift in Voice Notes When the subject of a verb is acting, the
verb is in the active voice. When the subject of a verb is acted upon, the verb is in the passive voice. Avoid unnecessary shifts in voice within one sentence. Examples of Active and Passive
Voice Active Voice-Jane won both events. (subject acting) Passive Voice-Both events were won by Jane. (Subject acted upon) Examples of Shift in Verb Voice
Unnecessary shift-Volunteers made (active verb) the dangerous journey after dark, but no wolves were encountered (passive verb). Examples of Shift in Verb Voice (Cont) Shift avoided-Volunteers made (active
verb) the dangerous journey after dark but encountered (active verb) no wolves. Shifts in Tense of Verbs Changing without reason from one tense to another within a sentence creates an awkward and confusing effect. Stick to the
tense that you start with unless there is an excellent reason for changing. Examples of Shift in Tense Unnecessary shift-At this point the President reads (present tense) a prepared statement but refused (past tense) to answer
any questions. Examples of Shift in Tense (Cont) Shift avoided-At this point the President read (past tense) a prepared statement but refused (past tense) to answer any
questions. Shift avoided-At this point the President reads (present tense) a prepared statement but refuses (present tense) to answer any questions. Shifts in Tense of Verbs
(Cont) In correcting unnecessary shifts in subject and verb, you will often find the best method is to omit the second subject. This can usually be done by using a second verb in the same voice as the first and making the verb compound.
Examples of Shifts in Tense (Cont) Unnecessary shift-A good driver has complete control of the car at all times, and allowance is made for the carelessness of other drivers.
Examples of Shift in Tense (Cont) Shift avoided-A good driver has complete control of the car at all times and makes allowances for the carelessness of other drivers. (The use of the compound active
voice for both verbs corrects the awkward shift.) Shifts in Person The term person identifies whether the speaker of a sentence is the person speaking (the first person), the person spoken to (the
second person), or the person spoken about (the third person). Rules of Shifts in Person A shift from one person form to another obscures a subjects identity, changing the reference by which the subject is known. Shifts in person often
occur when a writer switches from the second person (you) to the first person (I, we) or to the third person (he, she, it). You can avoid this difficulty by recognizing the first-, second-, third-person orientation of your sentences and by maintaining consistency.
Examples of Shift in Person Inconsistent-A person who is a nonsmoker can develop lung troubles when you live with smokers. Examples of Shift in Person (Cont)
Third person-A person who is a nonsmoker can develop lung troubles when he or she lives with smokers. Second person-If you are a nonsmoker, you can develop lung troubles if you live with smokers.
Shifts in Number Pronouns should agree in number with the nouns they replace. You can avoid shifting number and confusing readers by maintaining a clear plural or singular sense in all significant words throughout a sentence.
Examples of Shift in Number Inconsistent: They had the best time of their life. Examples of Shift in Number (cont)
Revised: They had the best time of their lives. Any significant words related to a subject or object should match its number. Inconsistent:
The seven candidates for the judgeship have a liberal record. Cont. Revised: The seven candidates for the judgeship have liberal records.
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