Friday, May 30, 2008


I heard someone say "She is tensed" and I immediately realized where the mistake came from. We never describe a person as "tensed;" a person is always just "tense." Why is this?

I think the confusion stems from the word "tense" as a verb and "tense" as an adjective. When we describe a person's state of nervousness (which is usually the way we use the word), we use it as an adjective: "She is tense." As an adjective, we do not add "ed."

Now, when "tense" is used as a verb, we mean "to make something stiff" or "to add tension." Think of all the workout videos and their teachers who shout: "Are you ready to do the workout? Feel the stretch! Tense those arm muscles!" In this example, we are being told to add tension to our muscles. Hence, "tense" is used as an action word. If the word is being used as a verb, then you can add "ed" to indicate the past: "He tensed his muscles too much during that weight-training session."

It's Friday already so don't you get too tense now!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi. My name is Jon - an engineer and lecturer at UP-Diliman. I think I picked up your link from my Batch egroup in DBTIHS 1988...just wanted to tell you that I am enjoying your posts as people in my profession are always dealing with serious grammar issues, which, just like your Toy Kingdom experience, I sometimes find irritating. I hope I can forward some terms/usage issues that you can comment on for the benefit of people in my office.

I was hoping to catch a link where I can send you email - do you have one here?

Thanks and may your blog prosper. Engineers can still do much to improve our use of the English language.

Cheers. :)