Tenses and Latin words

Tenses and Latin words

Remember not to rely on the grammar checker in your word processor!


Often authors change tense part of the way through a sentence when there has not been a change in the time frame for the actions that are taking place

  • Incorrect - The machine contains many components that worked in unison.
  • Correct - The machine contains many components that work in unison.

However, the following sentence is correct as the students are currently enjoying a facility which they have already built.

Correct - The students are enjoying their new union bar which they built themselves.

Latin words

The singular and plural forms of Latin words often present difficulties. In particular, the Latin word data which is plural (the singular is datum) often causes controversy as, through popular usage, it is now acknowledged as a singular collective noun. Historically, the correct use of data would have been:

The data are...

Nowadays it is often written as,

The data is ...

If in doubt, you can either use the historically correct form (your lecturer may be a keen Latin scholar), or just ask your lecturer or editor which they prefer.