Identify the tense of a short passage

This post is part of a series relating to the Minimum Standards for Grammar and Punctuation in the NAPLAN tests. For the first post in this series, click here.

At Year 9 level, the students are expected to be able to:

  • identify the tense of a short passage

It is worth noting that the example test does not ask the students to read a sentence and specify its tense. Rather, the test asks students to complete a sentence by choosing from a range of tenses. As such, it is not important for the students to know the names of the tenses (if you would like to know more about tenses yourself, however, there is this rather interesting article here). Here is the example question.


In this question Naplan have gone easy on the students in two ways. They have used three distinct tenses – the students just need to distinguish if the comments have happened, are happening or will happen rather than deciding whether they were going to happen as opposed to having had happened at some time in the past, for example. They have also given the students a clue by using a plural noun (‘His comments…’) indicating that the answer will involve the plural form of the verb (this is called subject-verb agreement and has been covered in a previous post).

As such, you can eliminate ‘is’ and ‘was’ as they conflict with the number of the noun. This leaves ‘were’ and ‘will be’ or past progressive and future progressive. Putting the verb ‘made’ from the context sentence into the answer sentence reveals that we are talking about the time that the comments were made, hence, ‘were interesting’ (past progressive). I have tried this strategy with a few examples in my head and it seems to work so feel free to share it with the kids.

If you find fault or know a better way to predict tense based on context, please let me know. If you feel like you have black-belt skills in tense recognition, put yourself through this test.



About timthelibrarian

Tim Harwood is a Teacher Librarian and eLearning enthusiast.
This entry was posted in Grammar, NAPLAN, Punctuation. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Identify the tense of a short passage

  1. Pingback: Grammar and punctuation | Tim the Librarian

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