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- (grammar) The present tense as used when referring to real past events, to add immediacy to what is being said or written.
- (grammar) The present tense as used when writing a fictional narrative.
- 1972, William Labov, Language in the Inner City: Studies in the Black English, page 47:
- In most dialects, the historical present is used quite freely to convey the sense of more vivid narrative, to retell dreams, plots, tell jokes, etc.
- 2001, Daniel E. Collins, Reanimated Voices: Speech reporting in a historical-pragmatic perspective, page 91:
- Cross-linguistically, the historical present tends to be used to increase vividness by substituting the perspective of the ongoing speech situation for that of the narrative.
- 2016, Leo Katcher, The Big Bankroll: The Life And Times Of Arnold Rothstein:
- Mr. Rothstein comes in," Scher said, "it must have been about none o'clock. Every night he comes in here [Scher, like so many Broadway habitués, spoke most often in the historical present, rather than the past, tense. Damon Runyon faithfully reproduced this patois.] Regular as clockwork he comes in here.
A distinction may be made between the historical present used in narratives and the literary present used when writing about narratives, e.g. explaining plotlines. However, this distinction is not universally observed.