In my dialect of English (North West England), we sometimes use the present tense of a verb when standard English employs the past tense, such as in the sentence below:

"I waits for the bus yesterday, but it never come..."

Contrasted with the RP "

I was waiting for the bus yesterday..."


"I waited for the bus yesterday..."

Using "waits", the present tense, instead of "waited", which is the "correct" past tense of the word. Is there a term for this phenomenon?

  • 2
    This is unvoluntarily comical because the present tense of I waited" is not *I waits in formal grammar. I'm sure you know, just saying. That's probably the dry Brittish humour we hear so much about, init? It might be important if -s reflects a different inflection than bare indicative present tense. I think Bavarian or Frankish would occasionally add -s, too "; it could be similar to the apparently self reflexive verbs, like in Slavic -sja; we could compare the -s in past tense was.
    – vectory
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 3:31
  • I'd even compare the platization of t, tt to tz in Old High Ger., past tzt would likely elide. Your forefathers didn't come from the mainland by any chance, hundreds of years ago?
    – vectory
    Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 3:39
  • I've heard the generalization of present -s to all singular subjects in American English as well. Commented Jan 7, 2020 at 15:51

2 Answers 2


Sometimes this phenomenon is known as the narrative present or (especially by Latinists) historical present.

Another potential phenomenon going on is that your dialect has developed relative tense. You might be used to descriptions of language with absolute tense - tense that is in relation to the present, but some languages use some tense relative to a reference point sometimes not the present), frequently contextually determined and dynamically moving to a new point in time when the narrative needs changes focus.


One possibility is "Historical present". It's quite frequent in French in textbooks.
You may also be interested in reading this section in wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aorist_(Ancient_Greek)#Narrative

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.