Historical present tense

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The historical present tense ( Latin praesens historicum , also narrative present tense) refers to the use of the present tense in stories of the past.


The use of the historical present in prose is a way of bringing the historical data closer to the listener or reader. The reader should be able to understand the historical events better through the use of the historical present tense, also important specific events can be described in the historical present tense. It is occasionally used in history books, historical summaries, and chronological tables. Quotations are often introduced with the historical present tense.

Hans-Werner Eroms describes the historical present tense as a “classic stylistic device”, through which stylistic effects (in the sense of a “tense metaphor” according to Harald Weinrich ) can be achieved. This is particularly the case when the tense change to the present tense takes place suddenly from the reader's point of view; This increases the emphaticity of the descriptions, while the intelligibility is maintained due to the coherent text design.

The common tense of the historical representation is the past tense . Present tense forms are only used in argumentative passages, for example when dealing with a source or specialist literature.

While in the German-language Wikipedia biographical articles about deceased persons are usually written in the past tense, in the French-language Wikipedia the historical present ( présent de narration ) is used for such articles .


  • In 800, is Charlemagne crowned .
  • Confucius says : "..."
  • On April 15, 1912 at 2:20 a.m. , the Titanic sinks to 41 ° 46 ′ N 50 ° 14 ′ W.
  • Tense metaphor: “Robert William Kempowski: in the morning he drives a cab into the office, slowly and greeting from all sides, sometimes to the left and sometimes to the right. He drives along Stephanstrasse . [...] At the Reichsbank travels Robert Williams Kempowski past when he was well disposed is ... (Walter Kempowski, from a great time, p.21) "

Web links

Wiktionary: historical present tense  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See Hans-Werner Eroms: Style and Stylistics. An introduction . 2nd edition 2014. Erich Schmidt: Berlin. P. 174 f.
  2. Peter Borowsky, Barbara Vogel , Heide Wunder : Introduction to History I , 5th edition, Opladen 1989, pp. 185f.
  3. Quoted in: Hans-Werner Eroms: Stil und Stilistik. An introduction . 2nd edition 2014. Erich Schmidt: Berlin. P. 174.