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Tense Use in Essays: Past vs. Present

2-minute read

  • 16th April 2016

It’s mostly time travellers who worry about the more convoluted aspects of grammatical tense , but the issue of tense use in academic writing is, nonetheless, controversial.

To be specific, there is much disagreement about tense use in essays : specifically, is past or present tense best? Today, we look into this tricky problem.

Present Tense

The present tense is used when discussing current events or states. It will often be the dominant tense used in academic writing due to the number of situations to which it applies:

  • Stating general principles or theories (e.g. ‘The third law of thermodynamics states …’)
  • Describing a fact (e.g. ‘Catalysts increase the rate of a reaction…’)
  • Expressing an opinion or making a claim (e.g. ‘I believe further research is required…’)
  • Analysing the results of an experiment (e.g. ‘The results show that…’)

In all these cases, the present tense shows that something applies at the current time or emphasises its relevance to the present.

The present tense can also do this in a literature review, since it frames research in terms of its current significance. This shows that you’re engaged with ongoing debate in your field of study, not simply describing out-of-date research.

The past tense is used when describing events that have already happened. In academic writing, this could be writing up a completed experiment.

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For example, the past tense can be used in methodology and results sections. Likewise, the past tense is useful when writing a case study, since this is almost always about something that has already occurred.

While you can use the past tense in a literature review, saying that someone ‘believed’ something may imply that they changed their mind. As such, the past tense can be used for discussing ‘dead’ ideas (i.e. things that no-one holds true any more) or something that someone has since disavowed.

Future Tense

The future tense is useful for discussing things that are yet to happen, such as when we commit to doing something (e.g. ‘I will continue to research this issue’).

Generally, you won’t need to do this too often in academic writing. However, the future tense can be useful in the following situations:

  • Making predictions about the future
  • Offering recommendations based on your results
  • Suggesting new avenues of research

In all these cases, the future tense will help you express yourself more clearly.

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Humanities LibreTexts

9.3: The Argumentative Essay

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Learning Objectives

  • Examine types of argumentative essays

Argumentative Essays

You may have heard it said that all writing is an argument of some kind. Even if you’re writing an informative essay, you still have the job of trying to convince your audience that the information is important. However, there are times you’ll be asked to write an essay that is specifically an argumentative piece.

An argumentative essay is one that makes a clear assertion or argument about some topic or issue. When you’re writing an argumentative essay, it’s important to remember that an academic argument is quite different from a regular, emotional argument. Note that sometimes students forget the academic aspect of an argumentative essay and write essays that are much too emotional for an academic audience. It’s important for you to choose a topic you feel passionately about (if you’re allowed to pick your topic), but you have to be sure you aren’t too emotionally attached to a topic. In an academic argument, you’ll have a lot more constraints you have to consider, and you’ll focus much more on logic and reasoning than emotions.

A cartoon person with a heart in one hand and a brain in the other.

Argumentative essays are quite common in academic writing and are often an important part of writing in all disciplines. You may be asked to take a stand on a social issue in your introduction to writing course, but you could also be asked to take a stand on an issue related to health care in your nursing courses or make a case for solving a local environmental problem in your biology class. And, since argument is such a common essay assignment, it’s important to be aware of some basic elements of a good argumentative essay.

When your professor asks you to write an argumentative essay, you’ll often be given something specific to write about. For example, you may be asked to take a stand on an issue you have been discussing in class. Perhaps, in your education class, you would be asked to write about standardized testing in public schools. Or, in your literature class, you might be asked to argue the effects of protest literature on public policy in the United States.

However, there are times when you’ll be given a choice of topics. You might even be asked to write an argumentative essay on any topic related to your field of study or a topic you feel that is important personally.

Whatever the case, having some knowledge of some basic argumentative techniques or strategies will be helpful as you write. Below are some common types of arguments.

Causal Arguments

  • In this type of argument, you argue that something has caused something else. For example, you might explore the causes of the decline of large mammals in the world’s ocean and make a case for your cause.

Evaluation Arguments

  • In this type of argument, you make an argumentative evaluation of something as “good” or “bad,” but you need to establish the criteria for “good” or “bad.” For example, you might evaluate a children’s book for your education class, but you would need to establish clear criteria for your evaluation for your audience.

Proposal Arguments

  • In this type of argument, you must propose a solution to a problem. First, you must establish a clear problem and then propose a specific solution to that problem. For example, you might argue for a proposal that would increase retention rates at your college.

Narrative Arguments

  • In this type of argument, you make your case by telling a story with a clear point related to your argument. For example, you might write a narrative about your experiences with standardized testing in order to make a case for reform.

Rebuttal Arguments

  • In a rebuttal argument, you build your case around refuting an idea or ideas that have come before. In other words, your starting point is to challenge the ideas of the past.

Definition Arguments

  • In this type of argument, you use a definition as the starting point for making your case. For example, in a definition argument, you might argue that NCAA basketball players should be defined as professional players and, therefore, should be paid.


Essay Examples

  • Click here to read an argumentative essay on the consequences of fast fashion . Read it and look at the comments to recognize strategies and techniques the author uses to convey her ideas.
  • In this example, you’ll see a sample argumentative paper from a psychology class submitted in APA format. Key parts of the argumentative structure have been noted for you in the sample.

Link to Learning

For more examples of types of argumentative essays, visit the Argumentative Purposes section of the Excelsior OWL .

Contributors and Attributions

  • Argumentative Essay. Provided by : Excelsior OWL. Located at : https://owl.excelsior.edu/rhetorical-styles/argumentative-essay/ . License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Image of a man with a heart and a brain. Authored by : Mohamed Hassan. Provided by : Pixabay. Located at : pixabay.com/illustrations/decision-brain-heart-mind-4083469/. License : Other . License Terms : pixabay.com/service/terms/#license

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What is an Argumentative Essay? How to Write It (With Examples)

Argumentative Essay

We define an argumentative essay as a type of essay that presents arguments about both sides of an issue. The purpose is to convince the reader to accept a particular viewpoint or action. In an argumentative essay, the writer takes a stance on a controversial or debatable topic and supports their position with evidence, reasoning, and examples. The essay should also address counterarguments, demonstrating a thorough understanding of the topic.

Table of Contents

  • What is an argumentative essay?  
  • Argumentative essay structure 
  • Argumentative essay outline 
  • Types of argument claims 

How to write an argumentative essay?

  • Argumentative essay writing tips 
  • Good argumentative essay example 

How to write a good thesis

  • How to Write an Argumentative Essay with Paperpal? 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an argumentative essay.

An argumentative essay is a type of writing that presents a coherent and logical analysis of a specific topic. 1 The goal is to convince the reader to accept the writer’s point of view or opinion on a particular issue. Here are the key elements of an argumentative essay: 

  • Thesis Statement : The central claim or argument that the essay aims to prove. 
  • Introduction : Provides background information and introduces the thesis statement. 
  • Body Paragraphs : Each paragraph addresses a specific aspect of the argument, presents evidence, and may include counter arguments. 

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  • Evidence : Supports the main argument with relevant facts, examples, statistics, or expert opinions. 
  • Counterarguments : Anticipates and addresses opposing viewpoints to strengthen the overall argument. 
  • Conclusion : Summarizes the main points, reinforces the thesis, and may suggest implications or actions. 

argumentative essay past tense

Argumentative essay structure

Aristotelian, Rogerian, and Toulmin are three distinct approaches to argumentative essay structures, each with its principles and methods. 2 The choice depends on the purpose and nature of the topic. Here’s an overview of each type of argumentative essay format.

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Argumentative essay outline

An argumentative essay presents a specific claim or argument and supports it with evidence and reasoning. Here’s an outline for an argumentative essay, along with examples for each section: 3  

1.  Introduction : 

  • Hook : Start with a compelling statement, question, or anecdote to grab the reader’s attention. 

Example: “Did you know that plastic pollution is threatening marine life at an alarming rate?” 

  • Background information : Provide brief context about the issue. 

Example: “Plastic pollution has become a global environmental concern, with millions of tons of plastic waste entering our oceans yearly.” 

  • Thesis statement : Clearly state your main argument or position. 

Example: “We must take immediate action to reduce plastic usage and implement more sustainable alternatives to protect our marine ecosystem.” 

2.  Body Paragraphs : 

  • Topic sentence : Introduce the main idea of each paragraph. 

Example: “The first step towards addressing the plastic pollution crisis is reducing single-use plastic consumption.” 

  • Evidence/Support : Provide evidence, facts, statistics, or examples that support your argument. 

Example: “Research shows that plastic straws alone contribute to millions of tons of plastic waste annually, and many marine animals suffer from ingestion or entanglement.” 

  • Counterargument/Refutation : Acknowledge and refute opposing viewpoints. 

Example: “Some argue that banning plastic straws is inconvenient for consumers, but the long-term environmental benefits far outweigh the temporary inconvenience.” 

  • Transition : Connect each paragraph to the next. 

Example: “Having addressed the issue of single-use plastics, the focus must now shift to promoting sustainable alternatives.” 

3.  Counterargument Paragraph : 

  • Acknowledgement of opposing views : Recognize alternative perspectives on the issue. 

Example: “While some may argue that individual actions cannot significantly impact global plastic pollution, the cumulative effect of collective efforts must be considered.” 

  • Counterargument and rebuttal : Present and refute the main counterargument. 

Example: “However, individual actions, when multiplied across millions of people, can substantially reduce plastic waste. Small changes in behavior, such as using reusable bags and containers, can have a significant positive impact.” 

4.  Conclusion : 

  • Restatement of thesis : Summarize your main argument. 

Example: “In conclusion, adopting sustainable practices and reducing single-use plastic is crucial for preserving our oceans and marine life.” 

  • Call to action : Encourage the reader to take specific steps or consider the argument’s implications. 

Example: “It is our responsibility to make environmentally conscious choices and advocate for policies that prioritize the health of our planet. By collectively embracing sustainable alternatives, we can contribute to a cleaner and healthier future.” 

argumentative essay past tense

Types of argument claims

A claim is a statement or proposition a writer puts forward with evidence to persuade the reader. 4 Here are some common types of argument claims, along with examples: 

  • Fact Claims : These claims assert that something is true or false and can often be verified through evidence.  Example: “Water boils at 100°C at sea level.”
  • Value Claims : Value claims express judgments about the worth or morality of something, often based on personal beliefs or societal values. Example: “Organic farming is more ethical than conventional farming.” 
  • Policy Claims : Policy claims propose a course of action or argue for a specific policy, law, or regulation change.  Example: “Schools should adopt a year-round education system to improve student learning outcomes.” 
  • Cause and Effect Claims : These claims argue that one event or condition leads to another, establishing a cause-and-effect relationship.  Example: “Excessive use of social media is a leading cause of increased feelings of loneliness among young adults.” 
  • Definition Claims : Definition claims assert the meaning or classification of a concept or term.  Example: “Artificial intelligence can be defined as machines exhibiting human-like cognitive functions.” 
  • Comparative Claims : Comparative claims assert that one thing is better or worse than another in certain respects.  Example: “Online education is more cost-effective than traditional classroom learning.” 
  • Evaluation Claims : Evaluation claims assess the quality, significance, or effectiveness of something based on specific criteria.  Example: “The new healthcare policy is more effective in providing affordable healthcare to all citizens.” 

Understanding these argument claims can help writers construct more persuasive and well-supported arguments tailored to the specific nature of the claim.  

If you’re wondering how to start an argumentative essay, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you with the argumentative essay format and writing process.

  • Choose a Topic: Select a topic that you are passionate about or interested in. Ensure that the topic is debatable and has two or more sides.
  • Define Your Position: Clearly state your stance on the issue. Consider opposing viewpoints and be ready to counter them.
  • Conduct Research: Gather relevant information from credible sources, such as books, articles, and academic journals. Take notes on key points and supporting evidence.
  • Create a Thesis Statement: Develop a concise and clear thesis statement that outlines your main argument. Convey your position on the issue and provide a roadmap for the essay.
  • Outline Your Argumentative Essay: Organize your ideas logically by creating an outline. Include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each body paragraph should focus on a single point that supports your thesis.
  • Write the Introduction: Start with a hook to grab the reader’s attention (a quote, a question, a surprising fact). Provide background information on the topic. Present your thesis statement at the end of the introduction.
  • Develop Body Paragraphs: Begin each paragraph with a clear topic sentence that relates to the thesis. Support your points with evidence and examples. Address counterarguments and refute them to strengthen your position. Ensure smooth transitions between paragraphs.
  • Address Counterarguments: Acknowledge and respond to opposing viewpoints. Anticipate objections and provide evidence to counter them.
  • Write the Conclusion: Summarize the main points of your argumentative essay. Reinforce the significance of your argument. End with a call to action, a prediction, or a thought-provoking statement.
  • Revise, Edit, and Share: Review your essay for clarity, coherence, and consistency. Check for grammatical and spelling errors. Share your essay with peers, friends, or instructors for constructive feedback.
  • Finalize Your Argumentative Essay: Make final edits based on feedback received. Ensure that your essay follows the required formatting and citation style.

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Argumentative essay writing tips

Here are eight strategies to craft a compelling argumentative essay: 

  • Choose a Clear and Controversial Topic : Select a topic that sparks debate and has opposing viewpoints. A clear and controversial issue provides a solid foundation for a strong argument. 
  • Conduct Thorough Research : Gather relevant information from reputable sources to support your argument. Use a variety of sources, such as academic journals, books, reputable websites, and expert opinions, to strengthen your position. 
  • Create a Strong Thesis Statement : Clearly articulate your main argument in a concise thesis statement. Your thesis should convey your stance on the issue and provide a roadmap for the reader to follow your argument. 
  • Develop a Logical Structure : Organize your essay with a clear introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Each paragraph should focus on a specific point of evidence that contributes to your overall argument. Ensure a logical flow from one point to the next. 
  • Provide Strong Evidence : Support your claims with solid evidence. Use facts, statistics, examples, and expert opinions to support your arguments. Be sure to cite your sources appropriately to maintain credibility. 
  • Address Counterarguments : Acknowledge opposing viewpoints and counterarguments. Addressing and refuting alternative perspectives strengthens your essay and demonstrates a thorough understanding of the issue. Be mindful of maintaining a respectful tone even when discussing opposing views. 
  • Use Persuasive Language : Employ persuasive language to make your points effectively. Avoid emotional appeals without supporting evidence and strive for a respectful and professional tone. 
  • Craft a Compelling Conclusion : Summarize your main points, restate your thesis, and leave a lasting impression in your conclusion. Encourage readers to consider the implications of your argument and potentially take action. 

argumentative essay past tense

Good argumentative essay example

Let’s consider a sample of argumentative essay on how social media enhances connectivity:

In the digital age, social media has emerged as a powerful tool that transcends geographical boundaries, connecting individuals from diverse backgrounds and providing a platform for an array of voices to be heard. While critics argue that social media fosters division and amplifies negativity, it is essential to recognize the positive aspects of this digital revolution and how it enhances connectivity by providing a platform for diverse voices to flourish. One of the primary benefits of social media is its ability to facilitate instant communication and connection across the globe. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram break down geographical barriers, enabling people to establish and maintain relationships regardless of physical location and fostering a sense of global community. Furthermore, social media has transformed how people stay connected with friends and family. Whether separated by miles or time zones, social media ensures that relationships remain dynamic and relevant, contributing to a more interconnected world. Moreover, social media has played a pivotal role in giving voice to social justice movements and marginalized communities. Movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and #ClimateStrike have gained momentum through social media, allowing individuals to share their stories and advocate for change on a global scale. This digital activism can shape public opinion and hold institutions accountable. Social media platforms provide a dynamic space for open dialogue and discourse. Users can engage in discussions, share information, and challenge each other’s perspectives, fostering a culture of critical thinking. This open exchange of ideas contributes to a more informed and enlightened society where individuals can broaden their horizons and develop a nuanced understanding of complex issues. While criticisms of social media abound, it is crucial to recognize its positive impact on connectivity and the amplification of diverse voices. Social media transcends physical and cultural barriers, connecting people across the globe and providing a platform for marginalized voices to be heard. By fostering open dialogue and facilitating the exchange of ideas, social media contributes to a more interconnected and empowered society. Embracing the positive aspects of social media allows us to harness its potential for positive change and collective growth.
  • Clearly Define Your Thesis Statement:   Your thesis statement is the core of your argumentative essay. Clearly articulate your main argument or position on the issue. Avoid vague or general statements.  
  • Provide Strong Supporting Evidence:   Back up your thesis with solid evidence from reliable sources and examples. This can include facts, statistics, expert opinions, anecdotes, or real-life examples. Make sure your evidence is relevant to your argument, as it impacts the overall persuasiveness of your thesis.  
  • Anticipate Counterarguments and Address Them:   Acknowledge and address opposing viewpoints to strengthen credibility. This also shows that you engage critically with the topic rather than presenting a one-sided argument. 

How to Write an Argumentative Essay with Paperpal?

Writing a winning argumentative essay not only showcases your ability to critically analyze a topic but also demonstrates your skill in persuasively presenting your stance backed by evidence. Achieving this level of writing excellence can be time-consuming. This is where Paperpal, your AI academic writing assistant, steps in to revolutionize the way you approach argumentative essays. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use Paperpal to write your essay: 

  • Sign Up or Log In: Begin by creating an account or logging into paperpal.com .  
  • Navigate to Paperpal Copilot: Once logged in, proceed to the Templates section from the side navigation bar.  
  • Generate an essay outline: Under Templates, click on the ‘Outline’ tab and choose ‘Essay’ from the options and provide your topic to generate an outline.  
  • Develop your essay: Use this structured outline as a guide to flesh out your essay. If you encounter any roadblocks, click on Brainstorm and get subject-specific assistance, ensuring you stay on track. 
  • Refine your writing: To elevate the academic tone of your essay, select a paragraph and use the ‘Make Academic’ feature under the ‘Rewrite’ tab, ensuring your argumentative essay resonates with an academic audience. 
  • Final Touches: Make your argumentative essay submission ready with Paperpal’s language, grammar, consistency and plagiarism checks, and improve your chances of acceptance.  

Paperpal not only simplifies the essay writing process but also ensures your argumentative essay is persuasive, well-structured, and academically rigorous. Sign up today and transform how you write argumentative essays. 

The length of an argumentative essay can vary, but it typically falls within the range of 1,000 to 2,500 words. However, the specific requirements may depend on the guidelines provided.

You might write an argumentative essay when:  1. You want to convince others of the validity of your position.  2. There is a controversial or debatable issue that requires discussion.  3. You need to present evidence and logical reasoning to support your claims.  4. You want to explore and critically analyze different perspectives on a topic. 

Argumentative Essay:  Purpose : An argumentative essay aims to persuade the reader to accept or agree with a specific point of view or argument.  Structure : It follows a clear structure with an introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs presenting arguments and evidence, counterarguments and refutations, and a conclusion.  Tone : The tone is formal and relies on logical reasoning, evidence, and critical analysis.    Narrative/Descriptive Essay:  Purpose : These aim to tell a story or describe an experience, while a descriptive essay focuses on creating a vivid picture of a person, place, or thing.  Structure : They may have a more flexible structure. They often include an engaging introduction, a well-developed body that builds the story or description, and a conclusion.  Tone : The tone is more personal and expressive to evoke emotions or provide sensory details. 

  • Gladd, J. (2020). Tips for Writing Academic Persuasive Essays.  Write What Matters . 
  • Nimehchisalem, V. (2018). Pyramid of argumentation: Towards an integrated model for teaching and assessing ESL writing.  Language & Communication ,  5 (2), 185-200. 
  • Press, B. (2022).  Argumentative Essays: A Step-by-Step Guide . Broadview Press. 
  • Rieke, R. D., Sillars, M. O., & Peterson, T. R. (2005).  Argumentation and critical decision making . Pearson/Allyn & Bacon. 

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  • How to Write a Scientific Paper in 10 Steps 
  • What is a Literature Review? How to Write It (with Examples)
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Grammar Camp: Verb tenses in essays -- chronology or relativity?

argumentative essay past tense

An important grammatical component of verbs is that they signify tense (i.e., the time when the action of the verb happened) through modification of their forms. Tense allows a reader to differentiate actions or events as things that have occurred, are occurring, or will occur. In writing, tense is used in two ways:

  • When setting up a chronological order of events or actions, and
  • When relating different events or actions to a particular topic at hand.

In academic writing, the type of paper determines which of the two ways a writer will use verb tense. For instance, argumentative papers often use the present tense, because the aim of the paper is to prove or refute a point in real time. Reports, on the other hand, often employ a mix of past and present and/or future tense, because the aim of reports is to describe the results of a series of events that have previously occurred and then to comment on the effect of those events moving forward. The best way to know what tense to use in your paper is to understand the difference between chronology and relativity in writing and to examine the aim of your paper accordingly.

The main purpose of a chronology is to establish a timeline of events. Writing chronologically relates to the reader a sequence of events that have an established preceding and succeeding occurrence. Papers that are written chronologically will, by default of style, use the past and present tenses for sure, and may also use the future tense. The past tense will be used to establish a preceding event or action, the future tense will establish a potential succeeding event or action. Most importantly, however, the present tense will bind this timeline and establish the significance of the preceding and succeeding events in conjunction with the present. A key thing to remember about writing chronologically is that each sequence of events both influences and is influenced by each other: the past event influences how the present event will unfold. Each time sequence must be connected to the other in a linear fashion.

A good example of a chronologically written academic paper is a scientific experiment report. Apart from the hypothesis and other functional details, the main crux of a scientific report is written as a timeline of the experiment(s) that happened, the results, a present tense discussion of the results, and usually a section about potential experiments in the future.

Relativity simply refers to the idea that certain things that often take a course of action in adherence to universal rules can sometimes bend those rules in particular circumstances. This idea is central to academic writing and is often used by authors in various disciplines. It is a style of writing that students regularly see, but do not always actively recognize. In writing, the idea of relativity is often masked by professors in other terms, such as: “staying on topic,” “including only that which is relevant,” “make sure your evidence connects to your thesis,” and so forth. The point is that when we write about a topic, we can go in any direction of time in talking about the topic, but our main focus is the topic. This approach is different from writing chronologically. Here, we are not aiming to describe past events about our topic and connect them to the present or future linearly; instead, we aim to present information about our topic by the use of different pieces of evidence that have been established in multiple time frames.

A good example of a relatively written academic paper is an argumentative paper, where we are seeking to prove a point in real time, but to do so we must pull evidence for our argument from multiple sources in the past and present. Perhaps we look to past experiments or articles or to current social issues or even our class lectures to help us prove our argument. The point is when we pull information from multiple sources, written at different times, we don’t just present our evidence from past to present chronologically; rather, we fit the information into our argument relatively.

Which style should you use for your paper? 

There is no hard and fast rule to know exactly which writing style to adopt for your paper, but, often, the type of paper you are writing, question you are answering, or topic you are addressing can point you in the right direction. Some questions you should ask are:

  • Is this a descriptive or an informative paper?

Descriptive papers most likely are chronological, while informative papers tend to be relative.

  • Is the focus here on multiple events or an underlying theme linking these events?

If the focus is on the connection of multiple, individual events themselves, you are likely to be describing a sequence of events chronologically. If, however, you are asked to talk about a particular theme that arises in multiple events, you are likely being asked to talk about the events relative to each other with respect to the theme that binds them.

  • Are all the parts of my resources relevant to answering the question?

This question is really speaking the idea that not all parts of a resource (background, description, event, present, etc.) are always necessary to explain when incorporating that resource into your paper. If your paper is theme/topic based, it will likely require only the most relevant parts of your resources that also talk about your current theme/topic and not how the resource got to that theme/topic.

  • Would a background description help my reader to understand my topic better?

Again, this question is exploring whether your topic is one that requires a timeline description in order for the message to be conveyed well. The answer here really depends on the type of paper. For instance, argumentative papers often do well with a little background about the topic, but most of the time is spent on pulling relative facts together in real time. Comparatively, a report about how a particular historical event changed a particular technology, for example, will undoubtedly do better with an informative timeline of how the event came about, what it was, and how it affected the technology in question. 

  • Does my research from resources written in the past still convey the same message or still connect to my topic today?

Often, students tend to filter and skim through different resources searching for keywords related to their theme/topic without looking into the relativity of the resource itself. Some resources, while very informative, may not hold the same temporal, social, or economic value today. Their arguments may not apply to the world today. In these cases, such resources, even in a relatively written paper, will not help convey the message of your paper’s theme/topic.

Some overall principles 

When writing relatively , always use the present tense when talking about your resources. This means that even if you are talking about an article in the past, you want to say that the author of the article “says” so and so presently in an infinite way. This signifies to your reader that the point made by the past article still stands today and relates to your theme/topic.

When writing chronologically , always keep your tenses the same. If you are talking about the past, your verbs should be conjugated to the past. It is only when you are connecting a past event with an effect in the future, that a sentence should have two differently conjugated verbs. Furthermore, these different verbs should be descriptive.

For example:

“World War II was an event which pushed on the boundaries of gender, and changed women’s place in the workforce forever [all past tense verbs] . We can still see   [present tense verb] the influences of WWII on women as, ever since the end of the war, the number of women in the workforce relative to men has increased [past perfect tense]  and continues to increase   [present tense]  to the point where it is normal for men and women to work today." 

Here the first sentence is describing what WWII was and did. The second sentence links that to the present, and the verbs here are descriptive of what has happened and is happening. Still each verb is conjugated to match the particular timeframe it is talking about.

The ultimate principle for academic papers is this, if you are unsure whether you should be providing a timeline for your topic or writing relatively about your topic, always be sure to check with your professor or TA .

-Deeya B., former SLC Writing and Learning Peer and SFU alumni 

Get in touch! Have an idea for a future blog post? Want to become a contributor to the SLC In Common Blog? Have a writing or learning question you've always wanted answered?  Contact us  and we'll reply. We read all questions and feedback and do our best to answer all writing/learning strategies-related questions directly on the blog within three weeks of receipt. 

argumentative essay past tense

Argumentative Essay Examples (3 College Samples to Use)

argumentative essay examples

When writing an argumentative essay, it can be helpful to look at examples and samples that provide the structure of the outline for the essay form. Here are argumentative essay examples to use when writing your university-level essay.

Argumentative essay

What is an argumentative essay?

An argumentative essay backs up its claims with facts and evidence. Its ultimate goal is to persuade the reader to concur with the thesis. Instead of only the author’s thoughts and feelings, a strong argumentative essay will incorporate facts and evidence to back up its claims.

This article will find three different argumentative essay examples to help you understand how to frame a good argument.

Argumentative essay outline:

Argumentative essays typically follow the conventional five-paragraph pattern. However, this is not necessary. The two common frameworks for these articles are the Toulmin model and the Rogerian model.

  • The most popular model is the Toulmin one. It starts with an introduction, moves on to a thesis or claim, and then provides information and proof to support that argument. Rebuttals of opposing points are also included in this type of essay.
  • The Rogerian paradigm examines both sides of an argument, weighs their advantages and disadvantages, and then draws a decision.

Argumentative essay examples

Below are three examples of argumentative essays.

Essay Example 1:

Some people have proposed closing public libraries and replacing them with iPads with e-reader subscriptions as online learning becomes more widespread and more resources are transformed into digital form.

The idea’s proponents claim that it will result in financial savings for nearby cities and villages because libraries are expensive. They think more people will read since they won’t have to go to the library to borrow a book. Instead, they can just click on the book they want to read and read it from wherever they are. Additionally, since libraries won’t need to purchase physical copies of books because they can simply rent as many digital ones, they’ll have access to more resources.

But using tablets to replace libraries would be a grave error. First, compared to print resources, digital books and resources are more problematic and are connected with less learning. According to research comparing tablet and book reading, tablet users read 20–30% slower, remember 20–20% less information, and comprehend 10–15% less of what they read than those who read the same material in print. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that gazing at a computer for an extended period is significantly more likely than reading print to result in several health issues. Such as blurred vision, faintness, dry eyes, headaches, and eye strain.

A higher incidence of more significant health conditions like fibromyalgia, shoulder and back discomfort, and carpal tunnel syndrome. And muscle strain is also observed in individuals who use tablets and mobile devices extensively.

Second, assuming that libraries provide book lending is limited-minded. There are many advantages to libraries, many of which can only be accessed if the library is physically there. These advantages include serving as a peaceful study area, offering a forum for neighborhood interaction, hosting classes on various subjects, creating employment opportunities, responding to client inquiries, and maintaining a sense of community. Over a third of residents in one neighborhood said they felt more connected to their community when a local library started hosting community events like play dates for young children and their parents .

Similarly, a 2015 Pew survey revealed that nearly two-thirds of American respondents believed eliminating their neighborhood library would significantly negatively impact their neighborhood.

Tablets can’t provide these advantages nearly as well as libraries do for those looking to connect with others and find answers to their queries.

Despite the numerous problems with digital screens, replacing libraries with tablets may seem straightforward, but it would inspire people to spend even more time staring at screens. Additionally, many of the advantages of libraries on which people have come to rely would no longer be accessible. A simple object in many communities could never replace libraries since they are such a vital element of the social fabric.

Essay Example 2:

Malaria is a contagious illness brought on by parasites that are spread to humans by female Anopheles mosquitoes. Over 500 million people contract malaria each year, with about 80% of those individuals residing in Sub-Saharan Africa. Every year, malaria claims the lives of close to 500,000 people, the majority of them being young children under the age of five. Malaria has a higher death rate than many other infectious disorders.

Rather than treating the illness once the person is already infected, even though there have been numerous programs created to increase access to malaria treatment.

Numerous medications are available to treat malaria; many are effective and life-saving. Nonetheless, malaria eradication projects in Sub-Saharan Africa that place an excessive emphasis on treatment and insufficient emphasis on prevention have not been successful over the long run . The WHO’s Global Malaria Eradication Programme was a significant initiative to eradicate malaria. It was founded in 1955 to eradicate malaria in Africa during the following ten years . The program largely focused on vector control and was based on earlier successful initiatives in Brazil and the US. Chloroquine was widely dispersed, while DDT was sprayed in massive quantities.

The effort to eradicate malaria cost more than one billion dollars. However, the initiative was plagued by numerous issues, and in 1969, WHO had to acknowledge that the program had failed to eradicate malaria. During the period the initiative was in place, the number of malaria cases and malaria-related deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa had increased by more than 10%.

The project’s failure was largely due to the consistent strategies and procedures it imposed. The program was not nearly as effective as it could have been since it did not consider differences in governments, geography, and infrastructure. Sub-Saharan Africa lacks the resources and infrastructure necessary to sustain such a complex program, making it impossible to carry out in an intended manner.

Most African nations lack the funds to adequately treat and immunize all of their citizens, let alone afford to clean marshes or other malaria-prone areas. Only 25% of what Brazil spent on malaria eradication was spent per person on the continent. Africa’s Sub-Saharan region cannot rely on a strategy that calls for increased funding, infrastructure, or further expertise.

The widespread use of chloroquine has also led to developing parasites that are now a problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. Because chloroquine was used frequently but ineffectively, mosquitoes became resistant, and as a result, over 95% of mosquitoes in Sub-Saharan Africa are now resistant to it. To prevent and treat malaria, newer, more expensive treatments must be utilized, which raises the price of malaria treatment for a region that can’t afford it.

Programs should concentrate on preventing infection from arising in the first place rather than creating plans to treat malaria after the infection has already occurred. This strategy is more affordable and effective and also decreases the number of days lost to missed work or school, which can further impair the region’s output.

Insecticide-treated bed nets are one of the easiest and most cost-efficient ways to prevent malaria (ITNs). These nets offer a secure perimeter around whoever is utilizing them. Bed nets treated with insecticides are far more useful than those that haven’t since they prevent mosquitoes from biting people through the netting. And help lower mosquito populations in a neighborhood, aiding those who don’t even possess bed nets. Because most mosquito bites occur when a person is asleep, bed nets can significantly lessen the number of transmissions at night. Where ITNs are widely used, malaria transmission can be decreased by as much as 90%.

Households suffering from malaria can usually only gather 40% of the yields that healthy families can. A household with malaria sufferers also spends about a fifth of its income on medical expenses, not accounting for the time lost from work due to the sickness. According to estimates, malaria causes Africa to lose 12 billion USD in revenue annually. Sub-Saharan Africa needs a strong economy made possible by a large working population.

Essay Example 3:

People are once again debating whether college athletes should be paid due to the continued popularity of college athletics and the significant financial success of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

There are numerous possible payment structures. Student-athletes might receive compensation through sponsorships, autographs, and the right to use their likeness, just like professional Olympians do. These payments could take a free-market approach in which players can earn whatever the market offers.

The idea’s proponents contend that college athletes need to be paid in some way for their labor since they are the ones who practice, compete in games, along with drawing spectators. Without college athletes, the NCAA wouldn’t exist, coaches wouldn’t be paid their (sometimes very high) salaries, and companies like Nike wouldn’t be able to make money off college sports. College athletes don’t receive any of the $1 billion in annual revenue that the NCAA generates in the form of a paycheck.

People who support paying college athletes assert that doing so will encourage them to stay in school longer and delay turning pro.

The Duke basketball sensation Zion Williamson, who suffered a catastrophic knee injury during his freshman year, is cited by the idea’s proponents as evidence. Many others claimed that even he adored representing Duke, risking another injury and prematurely terminating his professional career for an organization that wasn’t paying him wasn’t worth it. Later that year, Williamson declared his eligibility for the NCAA draught, showing that he agreed with them. He might have remained at Duke for more time had he been paid.

Paying athletes might also end the NCAA’s ongoing recruitment issues. Because it was determined that coaches were utilizing sex workers to attract recruits to join the team, which was completely wrong. The NCAA stripped the University of Louisville men’s basketball team of its national championship trophy in 2018. Numerous additional recruiting scandals have occurred, in which college athletes and recruiters were bought off with anything from free automobiles to having their grades modified to outright bribery.

The NCAA might end the dishonest and unlawful methods certain schools and coaches use to recruit athletes by paying college athletes and disclosing their earnings.

Even though both sides have valid arguments, it is evident that the drawbacks of compensating collegiate athletes exceed their advantages. College athletes dedicate much time and effort to representing their institution but are rewarded with scholarships and benefits. This can result in a bidding war only for the top athletes.

In contrast, most student athletics and college athletic programs would suffer or shut down due to a lack of funding. It is possible for many people if benefits for student-athletes are maintained at the current level.

A successful argumentative essay incorporates the author’s thoughts and opinions and uses facts and evidence to support its claims. For instance, you might have wished to write an argumentative essay arguing that your friends would like to travel to New York.

The majority of individuals concur that eating fast food is unhealthy. It is arguable whether the federal government should regulate the size of sodas sold at fast-food restaurants because junk food is detrimental to your health. The statement is open to reasonable agreement or disagreement.

Start with a sentence that will grab your attention. Describe the texts in detail. Declare your position. Verify that you have rephrased the prompt. Add a topic sentence that restates your assertion and justification.

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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, 3 key tips for how to write an argumentative essay.

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General Education


If there’s one writing skill you need to have in your toolkit for standardized tests, AP exams, and college-level writing, it’s the ability to make a persuasive argument. Effectively arguing for a position on a topic or issue isn’t just for the debate team— it’s for anyone who wants to ace the essay portion of an exam or make As in college courses.

To give you everything you need to know about how to write an argumentative essay , we’re going to answer the following questions for you:

  • What is an argumentative essay?
  • How should an argumentative essay be structured?
  • How do I write a strong argument?
  • What’s an example of a strong argumentative essay?
  • What are the top takeaways for writing argumentative papers?

By the end of this article, you’ll be prepped and ready to write a great argumentative essay yourself!

Now, let’s break this down.


What Is an Argumentative Essay?

An argumentative essay is a type of writing that presents the writer’s position or stance on a specific topic and uses evidence to support that position. The goal of an argumentative essay is to convince your reader that your position is logical, ethical, and, ultimately, right . In argumentative essays, writers accomplish this by writing:

  • A clear, persuasive thesis statement in the introduction paragraph
  • Body paragraphs that use evidence and explanations to support the thesis statement
  • A paragraph addressing opposing positions on the topic—when appropriate
  • A conclusion that gives the audience something meaningful to think about.

Introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion: these are the main sections of an argumentative essay. Those probably sound familiar. Where does arguing come into all of this, though? It’s not like you’re having a shouting match with your little brother across the dinner table. You’re just writing words down on a page!

...or are you? Even though writing papers can feel like a lonely process, one of the most important things you can do to be successful in argumentative writing is to think about your argument as participating in a larger conversation . For one thing, you’re going to be responding to the ideas of others as you write your argument. And when you’re done writing, someone—a teacher, a professor, or exam scorer—is going to be reading and evaluating your argument.

If you want to make a strong argument on any topic, you have to get informed about what’s already been said on that topic . That includes researching the different views and positions, figuring out what evidence has been produced, and learning the history of the topic. That means—you guessed it!—argumentative essays almost always require you to incorporate outside sources into your writing.  


What Makes Argumentative Essays Unique?

Argumentative essays are different from other types of essays for one main reason: in an argumentative essay, you decide what the argument will be . Some types of essays, like summaries or syntheses, don’t want you to show your stance on the topic—they want you to remain unbiased and neutral.

In argumentative essays, you’re presenting your point of view as the writer and, sometimes, choosing the topic you’ll be arguing about. You just want to make sure that that point of view comes across as informed, well-reasoned, and persuasive.

Another thing about argumentative essays: they’re often longer than other types of essays. Why, you ask? Because it takes time to develop an effective argument. If your argument is going to be persuasive to readers, you have to address multiple points that support your argument, acknowledge counterpoints, and provide enough evidence and explanations to convince your reader that your points are valid.


Our 3 Best Tips for Picking a Great Argumentative Topic

The first step to writing an argumentative essay deciding what to write about! Choosing a topic for your argumentative essay might seem daunting, though. It can feel like you could make an argument about anything under the sun. For example, you could write an argumentative essay about how cats are way cooler than dogs, right?

It’s not quite that simple . Here are some strategies for choosing a topic that serves as a solid foundation for a strong argument.

Choose a Topic That Can Be Supported With Evidence

First, you want to make sure the topic you choose allows you to make a claim that can be supported by evidence that’s considered credible and appropriate for the subject matter ...and, unfortunately, your personal opinions or that Buzzfeed quiz you took last week don’t quite make the cut.

Some topics—like whether cats or dogs are cooler—can generate heated arguments, but at the end of the day, any argument you make on that topic is just going to be a matter of opinion. You have to pick a topic that allows you to take a position that can be supported by actual, researched evidence.

(Quick note: you could write an argumentative paper over the general idea that dogs are better than cats—or visa versa!—if you’re a) more specific and b) choose an idea that has some scientific research behind it. For example, a strong argumentative topic could be proving that dogs make better assistance animals than cats do.)

You also don’t want to make an argument about a topic that’s already a proven fact, like that drinking water is good for you. While some people might dislike the taste of water, there is an overwhelming body of evidence that proves—beyond the shadow of a doubt—that drinking water is a key part of good health.  

To avoid choosing a topic that’s either unprovable or already proven, try brainstorming some issues that have recently been discussed in the news, that you’ve seen people debating on social media, or that affect your local community. If you explore those outlets for potential topics, you’ll likely stumble upon something that piques your audience’s interest as well.  

Choose a Topic That You Find Interesting

Topics that have local, national, or global relevance often also resonate with us on a personal level. Consider choosing a topic that holds a connection between something you know or care about and something that is relevant to the rest of society. These don’t have to be super serious issues, but they should be topics that are timely and significant.

For example, if you are a huge football fan, a great argumentative topic for you might be arguing whether football leagues need to do more to prevent concussions . Is this as “important” an issue as climate change? No, but it’s still a timely topic that affects many people. And not only is this a great argumentative topic: you also get to write about one of your passions! Ultimately, if you’re working with a topic you enjoy, you’ll have more to say—and probably write a better essay .

Choose a Topic That Doesn’t Get You Too Heated

Another word of caution on choosing a topic for an argumentative paper: while it can be effective to choose a topic that matters to you personally, you also want to make sure you’re choosing a topic that you can keep your cool over. You’ve got to be able to stay unemotional, interpret the evidence persuasively, and, when appropriate, discuss opposing points of view without getting too salty.

In some situations, choosing a topic for your argumentative paper won’t be an issue at all: the test or exam will choose it for you . In that case, you’ve got to do the best you can with what you’re given.

In the next sections, we’re going to break down how to write any argumentative essay —regardless of whether you get to choose your own topic or have one assigned to you! Our expert tips and tricks will make sure that you’re knocking your paper out of the park.


The Thesis: The Argumentative Essay’s Backbone

You’ve chosen a topic or, more likely, read the exam question telling you to defend, challenge, or qualify a claim on an assigned topic. What do you do now?

You establish your position on the topic by writing a killer thesis statement ! The thesis statement, sometimes just called “the thesis,” is the backbone of your argument, the north star that keeps you oriented as you develop your main points, the—well, you get the idea.

In more concrete terms, a thesis statement conveys your point of view on your topic, usually in one sentence toward the end of your introduction paragraph . It’s very important that you state your point of view in your thesis statement in an argumentative way—in other words, it should state a point of view that is debatable.

And since your thesis statement is going to present your argument on the topic, it’s the thing that you’ll spend the rest of your argumentative paper defending. That’s where persuasion comes in. Your thesis statement tells your reader what your argument is, then the rest of your essay shows and explains why your argument is logical.

Why does an argumentative essay need a thesis, though? Well, the thesis statement—the sentence with your main claim—is actually the entire point of an argumentative essay. If you don’t clearly state an arguable claim at the beginning of your paper, then it’s not an argumentative essay. No thesis statement = no argumentative essay. Got it?

Other types of essays that you’re familiar with might simply use a thesis statement to forecast what the rest of the essay is going to discuss or to communicate what the topic is. That’s not the case here. If your thesis statement doesn’t make a claim or establish your position, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board.

Example Thesis Statements

Here are a couple of examples of thesis statements that aren’t argumentative and thesis statements that are argumentative

The sky is blue.

The thesis statement above conveys a fact, not a claim, so it’s not argumentative.

To keep the sky blue, governments must pass clean air legislation and regulate emissions.

The second example states a position on a topic. What’s the topic in that second sentence? The best way to keep the sky blue. And what position is being conveyed? That the best way to keep the sky blue is by passing clean air legislation and regulating emissions.

Some people would probably respond to that thesis statement with gusto: “No! Governments should not pass clean air legislation and regulate emissions! That infringes on my right to pollute the earth!” And there you have it: a thesis statement that presents a clear, debatable position on a topic.

Here’s one more set of thesis statement examples, just to throw in a little variety:

Spirituality and otherworldliness characterize A$AP Rocky’s portrayals of urban life and the American Dream in his rap songs and music videos.

The statement above is another example that isn’t argumentative, but you could write a really interesting analytical essay with that thesis statement. Long live A$AP! Now here’s another one that is argumentative:

To give students an understanding of the role of the American Dream in contemporary life, teachers should incorporate pop culture, like the music of A$AP Rocky, into their lessons and curriculum.

The argument in this one? Teachers should incorporate more relevant pop culture texts into their curriculum.

This thesis statement also gives a specific reason for making the argument above: To give students an understanding of the role of the American Dream in contemporary life. If you can let your reader know why you’re making your argument in your thesis statement, it will help them understand your argument better.


An actual image of you killing your argumentative essay prompts after reading this article! 

Breaking Down the Sections of An Argumentative Essay

Now that you know how to pick a topic for an argumentative essay and how to make a strong claim on your topic in a thesis statement, you’re ready to think about writing the other sections of an argumentative essay. These are the parts that will flesh out your argument and support the claim you made in your thesis statement.  

Like other types of essays, argumentative essays typically have three main sections: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Within those sections, there are some key elements that a reader—and especially an exam scorer or professor—is always going to expect you to include.

Let’s look at a quick outline of those three sections with their essential pieces here:

  • Introduction paragraph with a thesis statement (which we just talked about)
  • Support Point #1 with evidence
  • Explain/interpret the evidence with your own, original commentary (AKA, the fun part!)
  • Support Point #2 with evidence
  • Explain/interpret the evidence with your own, original commentary
  • Support Point #3 with evidence
  • New paragraph addressing opposing viewpoints (more on this later!)
  • Concluding paragraph

 Now, there are some key concepts in those sections that you’ve got to understand if you’re going to master how to write an argumentative essay. To make the most of the body section, you have to know how to support your claim (your thesis statement), what evidence and explanations are and when you should use them, and how and when to address opposing viewpoints. To finish strong, you’ve got to have a strategy for writing a stellar conclusion.

This probably feels like a big deal! The body and conclusion make up most of the essay, right? Let’s get down to it, then.


How to Write a Strong Argument

Once you have your topic and thesis, you’re ready for the hard part: actually writing your argument. If you make strategic choices—like the ones we’re about to talk about—writing a strong argumentative essay won’t feel so difficult.

There are three main areas where you want to focus your energy as you develop a strategy for how to write an argumentative essay: supporting your claim—your thesis statement—in your essay, addressing other viewpoints on your topic, and writing a solid conclusion. If you put thought and effort into these three things, you’re much more likely to write an argumentative essay that’s engaging, persuasive, and memorable...aka A+ material.

Focus Area 1: Supporting Your Claim With Evidence and Explanations

So you’ve chosen your topic, decided what your position will be, and written a thesis statement. But like we see in comment threads across the Internet, if you make a claim and don’t back it up with evidence, what do people say? “Where’s your proof?” “Show me the facts!” “Do you have any evidence to support that claim?”

Of course you’ve done your research like we talked about. Supporting your claim in your thesis statement is where that research comes in handy.

You can’t just use your research to state the facts, though. Remember your reader? They’re going to expect you to do some of the dirty work of interpreting the evidence for them. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between evidence and explanations, and how and when to use both in your argumentative essay.

What Evidence Is and When You Should Use It

Evidence can be material from any authoritative and credible outside source that supports your position on your topic. In some cases, evidence can come in the form of photos, video footage, or audio recordings. In other cases, you might be pulling reasons, facts, or statistics from news media articles, public policy, or scholarly books or journals.

There are some clues you can look for that indicate whether or not a source is credible , such as whether:

  • The website where you found the source ends in .edu, .gov, or .org
  • The source was published by a university press
  • The source was published in a peer-reviewed journal
  • The authors did extensive research to support the claims they make in the source

This is just a short list of some of the clues that a source is likely a credible one, but just because a source was published by a prestigious press or the authors all have PhDs doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best piece of evidence for you to use to support your argument.

In addition to evaluating the source’s credibility, you’ve got to consider what types of evidence might come across as most persuasive in the context of the argument you’re making and who your readers are. In other words, stepping back and getting a bird’s eye view of the entire context of your argumentative paper is key to choosing evidence that will strengthen your argument.

On some exams, like the AP exams , you may be given pretty strict parameters for what evidence to use and how to use it. You might be given six short readings that all address the same topic, have 15 minutes to read them, then be required to pull material from a minimum of three of the short readings to support your claim in an argumentative essay.

When the sources are handed to you like that, be sure to take notes that will help you pick out evidence as you read. Highlight, underline, put checkmarks in the margins of your exam . . . do whatever you need to do to begin identifying the material that you find most helpful or relevant. Those highlights and check marks might just turn into your quotes, paraphrases, or summaries of evidence in your completed exam essay.

What Explanations Are and When You Should Use Them

Now you know that taking a strategic mindset toward evidence and explanations is critical to grasping how to write an argumentative essay. Unfortunately, evidence doesn’t speak for itself. While it may be obvious to you, the researcher and writer, how the pieces of evidence you’ve included are relevant to your audience, it might not be as obvious to your reader.

That’s where explanations—or analysis, or interpretations—come in. You never want to just stick some quotes from an article into your paragraph and call it a day. You do want to interpret the evidence you’ve included to show your reader how that evidence supports your claim.

Now, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be saying, “This piece of evidence supports my argument because...”. Instead, you want to comment on the evidence in a way that helps your reader see how it supports the position you stated in your thesis. We’ll talk more about how to do this when we show you an example of a strong body paragraph from an argumentative essay here in a bit.

Understanding how to incorporate evidence and explanations to your advantage is really important. Here’s why: when you’re writing an argumentative essay, particularly on standardized tests or the AP exam, the exam scorers can’t penalize you for the position you take. Instead, their evaluation is going to focus on the way you incorporated evidence and explained it in your essay.


Focus Area 2: How—and When—to Address Other Viewpoints

Why would we be making arguments at all if there weren’t multiple views out there on a given topic? As you do research and consider the background surrounding your topic, you’ll probably come across arguments that stand in direct opposition to your position.

Oftentimes, teachers will ask you to “address the opposition” in your argumentative essay. What does that mean, though, to “ address the opposition ?”

Opposing viewpoints function kind of like an elephant in the room. Your audience knows they’re there. In fact, your audience might even buy into an opposing viewpoint and be waiting for you to show them why your viewpoint is better. If you don’t, it means that you’ll have a hard time convincing your audience to buy your argument.

Addressing the opposition is a balancing act: you don’t want to undermine your own argument, but you don’t want to dismiss the validity of opposing viewpoints out-of-hand or ignore them altogether, which can also undermine your argument.

This isn’t the only acceptable approach, but it’s common practice to wait to address the opposition until close to the end of an argumentative essay. But why?

Well, waiting to present an opposing viewpoint until after you’ve thoroughly supported your own argument is strategic. You aren’t going to go into great detail discussing the opposing viewpoint: you’re going to explain what that viewpoint is fairly, but you’re also going to point out what’s wrong with it.

It can also be effective to read the opposition through the lens of your own argument and the evidence you’ve used to support it. If the evidence you’ve already included supports your argument, it probably doesn’t support the opposing viewpoint. Without being too obvious, it might be worth pointing this out when you address the opposition.


Focus Area #3: Writing the Conclusion

It’s common to conclude an argumentative essay by reiterating the thesis statement in some way, either by reminding the reader what the overarching argument was in the first place or by reviewing the main points and evidence that you covered.

You don’t just want to restate your thesis statement and review your main points and call it a day, though. So much has happened since you stated your thesis in the introduction! And why waste a whole paragraph—the very last thing your audience is going to read—on just repeating yourself?

Here’s an approach to the conclusion that can give your audience a fresh perspective on your argument: reinterpret your thesis statement for them in light of all the evidence and explanations you’ve provided. Think about how your readers might read your thesis statement in a new light now that they’ve heard your whole argument out.

That’s what you want to leave your audience with as you conclude your argumentative paper: a brief explanation of why all that arguing mattered in the first place. If you can give your audience something to continue pondering after they’ve read your argument, that’s even better.

One thing you want to avoid in your conclusion, though: presenting new supporting points or new evidence. That can just be confusing for your reader. Stick to telling your reader why the argument you’ve already made matters, and your argument will stick with your reader.


A Strong Argumentative Essay: Examples

For some aspiring argumentative essay writers, showing is better than telling. To show rather than tell you what makes a strong argumentative essay, we’ve provided three examples of possible body paragraphs for an argumentative essay below.

Think of these example paragraphs as taking on the form of the “Argumentative Point #1 → Evidence —> Explanation —> Repeat” process we talked through earlier. It’s always nice to be able to compare examples, so we’ve included three paragraphs from an argumentative paper ranging from poor (or needs a lot of improvement, if you’re feeling generous), to better, to best.

All of the example paragraphs are for an essay with this thesis statement: 

Thesis Statement: In order to most effectively protect user data and combat the spread of disinformation, the U.S. government should implement more stringent regulations of Facebook and other social media outlets.

As you read the examples, think about what makes them different, and what makes the “best” paragraph more effective than the “better” and “poor” paragraphs. Here we go:

A Poor Argument

Example Body Paragraph: Data mining has affected a lot of people in recent years. Facebook has 2.23 billion users from around the world, and though it would take a huge amount of time and effort to make sure a company as big as Facebook was complying with privacy regulations in countries across the globe, adopting a common framework for privacy regulation in more countries would be the first step. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg himself supports adopting a global framework for privacy and data protection, which would protect more users than before.

What’s Wrong With This Example?

First, let’s look at the thesis statement. Ask yourself: does this make a claim that some people might agree with, but others might disagree with?

The answer is yes. Some people probably think that Facebook should be regulated, while others might believe that’s too much government intervention. Also, there are definitely good, reliable sources out there that will help this writer prove their argument. So this paper is off to a strong start!  

Unfortunately, this writer doesn’t do a great job proving their thesis in their body paragraph. First, the topic sentence—aka the first sentence of the paragraph—doesn’t make a point that directly supports the position stated in the thesis. We’re trying to argue that government regulation will help protect user data and combat the spread of misinformation, remember? The topic sentence should make a point that gets right at that, instead of throwing out a random fact about data mining.

Second, because the topic sentence isn’t focused on making a clear point, the rest of the paragraph doesn’t have much relevant information, and it fails to provide credible evidence that supports the claim made in the thesis statement. For example, it would be a great idea to include exactly what Mark Zuckerberg said ! So while there’s definitely some relevant information in this paragraph, it needs to be presented with more evidence.

A Better Argument  

This paragraph is a bit better than the first one, but it still needs some work. The topic sentence is a bit too long, and it doesn’t make a point that clearly supports the position laid out in the thesis statement. The reader already knows that mining user data is a big issue, so the topic sentence would be a great place to make a point about why more stringent government regulations would most effectively protect user data.

There’s also a problem with how the evidence is incorporated in this example. While there is some relevant, persuasive evidence included in this paragraph, there’s no explanation of why or how it is relevant . Remember, you can’t assume that your evidence speaks for itself: you have to interpret its relevance for your reader. That means including at least a sentence that tells your reader why the evidence you’ve chosen proves your argument.

A Best—But Not Perfect!—Argument  

Example Body Paragraph: Though Facebook claims to be implementing company policies that will protect user data and stop the spread of misinformation , its attempts have been unsuccessful compared to those made by the federal government. When PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted a Federal Trade Commission-mandated assessment of Facebook’s partnerships with Microsoft and the makers of the Blackberry handset in 2013, the team found limited evidence that Facebook had monitored or even checked that its partners had complied with Facebook’s existing data use policies. In fact, Facebook’s own auditors confirmed the PricewaterhouseCoopers findings, despite the fact that Facebook claimed that the company was making greater attempts to safeguard users’ personal information. In contrast, bills written by Congress have been more successful in changing Facebook’s practices than Facebook’s own company policies have. According to The Washington Post, The Honest Ads Act of 2017 “created public demand for transparency and changed how social media companies disclose online political advertising.” These policy efforts, though thus far unsuccessful in passing legislation, have nevertheless pushed social media companies to change some of their practices by sparking public outrage and negative media attention.

Why This Example Is The Best

This paragraph isn’t perfect, but it is the most effective at doing some of the things that you want to do when you write an argumentative essay.

First, the topic sentences get to the point . . . and it’s a point that supports and explains the claim made in the thesis statement! It gives a clear reason why our claim in favor of more stringent government regulations is a good claim : because Facebook has failed to self-regulate its practices.

This paragraph also provides strong evidence and specific examples that support the point made in the topic sentence. The evidence presented shows specific instances in which Facebook has failed to self-regulate, and other examples where the federal government has successfully influenced regulation of Facebook’s practices for the better.

Perhaps most importantly, though, this writer explains why the evidence is important. The bold sentence in the example is where the writer links the evidence back to their opinion. In this case, they explain that the pressure from Federal Trade Commission and Congress—and the threat of regulation—have helped change Facebook for the better.

Why point out that this isn’t a perfect paragraph, though? Because you won’t be writing perfect paragraphs when you’re taking timed exams either. But get this: you don’t have to write perfect paragraphs to make a good score on AP exams or even on an essay you write for class. Like in this example paragraph, you just have to effectively develop your position by appropriately and convincingly relying on evidence from good sources.


Top 3 Takeaways For Writing Argumentative Essays

This is all great information, right? If (when) you have to write an argumentative essay, you’ll be ready. But when in doubt, remember these three things about how to write an argumentative essay, and you’ll emerge victorious:

Takeaway #1: Read Closely and Carefully

This tip applies to every aspect of writing an argumentative essay. From making sure you’re addressing your prompt, to really digging into your sources, to proofreading your final paper...you’ll need to actively and pay attention! This is especially true if you’re writing on the clock, like during an AP exam.

Takeaway #2: Make Your Argument the Focus of the Essay

Define your position clearly in your thesis statement and stick to that position! The thesis is the backbone of your paper, and every paragraph should help prove your thesis in one way or another. But sometimes you get to the end of your essay and realize that you’ve gotten off topic, or that your thesis doesn’t quite fit. Don’t worry—if that happens, you can always rewrite your thesis to fit your paper!

Takeaway #3: Use Sources to Develop Your Argument—and Explain Them

Nothing is as powerful as good, strong evidence. First, make sure you’re finding credible sources that support your argument. Then you can paraphrase, briefly summarize, or quote from your sources as you incorporate them into your paragraphs. But remember the most important part: you have to explain why you’ve chosen that evidence and why it proves your thesis.

What's Next?

Once you’re comfortable with how to write an argumentative essay, it’s time to learn some more advanced tips and tricks for putting together a killer argument.

Keep in mind that argumentative essays are just one type of essay you might encounter. That’s why we’ve put together more specific guides on how to tackle IB essays , SAT essays , and ACT essays .

But what about admissions essays? We’ve got you covered. Not only do we have comprehensive guides to the Coalition App and Common App essays, we also have tons of individual college application guides, too . You can search through all of our college-specific posts by clicking here.

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Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.

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Common Issues with Tenses

Common Issues with Tenses

4-minute read

  • 6th June 2022

Using verbs correctly is one of the trickiest parts of writing . Anyone can make mistakes with verb tenses, but it’s especially easy for those who aren’t native English speakers. In this post, we’ll explain the nine main tenses and highlight the most common mistakes writers make when using them. So, read on if you want to make verb tense mistakes a thing of the past!

What Are the Main Tenses in English?

Every action happens in the past, present, or future. Each of these time frames is further divided into the simple , continuous, or perfect form. Here’s an example of each:

●  Simple past – things that happened before now:

I wrote an essay last week.

●  Past continuous – an ongoing action in the past:

He was writing a poem yesterday morning.

●  Past perfect – an action that ended before a point in the past:

By lunchtime, he had written six lines.

●  Simple present – a habitual action:

She writes at her desk by the window.

The simple present is also used to describe actions happening at this moment:

I want a desk like that.

●  Present continuous – an ongoing action happening right now:

I am writing a future bestseller!

●  Present perfect – an action that began in the past and is still happening now, or one that happened at an unspecified time:

He has written stories since he was a child.

I have written 1000 birthday cards.

●  Simple future – things that’ll happen and then stop happening:

I will read the first chapter of the book tomorrow.

●  Future continuous – things that’ll begin in the future and continue for some time:

I will be writing a book report.

●  Future perfect – an action that’ll end at some point in the future:

I will have written it by the end of the week.

With so many tenses to choose from, it’s no wonder people make mistakes. Don’t worry, though, because for most academic writing, you don’t need to use all of them. Essays and assignments are nearly always written in the simple present tense, and if you’re describing your own research methodology (e.g., an experiment or survey), you would use the simple past tense.

What Are the Most Common Verb Tense Errors?

Mistakes with verb tenses usually fall into one of three categories:

  • Changing from one tense to another.
  • Overusing continuous tenses.
  • Confusion with irregular verbs.

Use tenses consistently

Your readers will get confused if you switch tenses unexpectedly:

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The car drove into the tunnel, and it comes out the other end. ✘

The car drove into the tunnel, and it came out the other end. ✔

The car drives into the tunnel, and it comes out the other end. ✔

This doesn’t mean changing tense mid-sentence is always wrong. But make sure you’re saying what you intend to say!

I practiced using different tenses, and now I understand them better. ✔

Limit your use of continuous tenses

Your writing can easily become quite clunky if you use a lot of continuous verb forms:

It was pouring rain while we were camping, and the children were complaining because their blankets were getting wet.

It poured rain while we were camping, and the children complained because their blankets got wet.

The first sentence contains four present participles (i.e., verb forms that end in ing ), which makes it quite a chore to read and rather repetitive. In the second version, we’ve replaced three of them with the simple past tense. This makes the writing more concise and easier to read.

Watch out for irregular verbs

We form the simple past tense and the past participle of most verbs by simply adding ed to the base verb (e.g., walk – walked; open – opened ). However, there are many verbs that don’t obey such rules, and we call these irregular verbs . Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to learn how to conjugate irregular verbs because they don’t follow an obvious pattern, as these examples show:

I buyed bought a gigantic jar of honey.

It costed cost $10.

I hided hid it in the back of the cupboard.

I soon forgetted forgot all about it.

As you read English texts and listen to people speaking in conversation, you’ll recognize more irregular verbs and become familiar with how they work.

Proofreading for Perfect Grammar

We hope you now feel confident about using different tenses in your writing. If you’d like an expert to check your work for incorrect verbs and any other mistakes in grammar, spelling, or punctuation, our proofreaders are here to help. Send us a free trial document to find out more.

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How to Write an Argumentative Essay | Ace AP Lang Writing Effortlessly

By now, you should already have a good idea that you need to learn how to write an argumentative essay for AP Lang if you want to get your free college credits from the course. It’s a major component for the course, so you certainly have to master writing this kind of essay if you want good scores. Don’t worry too much about your efforts, though, because becoming proficient in this kind of writing will also help you out in college.

To help you have a better understanding of the writing process of argumentative essays, we’ve created a guide that should help teach you all the vital things you need to know. Check it out below and you might just find yourself breezing through AP Lang argument essay assignments after.

What is an Argumentative Essay and What Should It Contain?

An argumentative essay is a type of essay that requires writers to  investigate the topic  that they’re going to write about. Writers are required to gather or generate information and evidence that can back up the position that they’ll be making. Using strong logic, evidence, and other elements of argument, you can get your point across. What you write doesn’t have to persuade readers into taking the same stand but your points can still be persuasive on its own.

argumentative essay past tense

The key point, when writing an argumentative essay for AP Lang is that you need to firmly declare a position in the matter you’re discussing. Concession and refutation are your main options on where to stand but it’s how you elaborate on your opinion that really makes or breaks your essay. Your points will help you ‘argue’ your point and convince your readers that your position has its merits.

Argumentative essays are usually confused with other kinds of technical essays. but it’s clearly different from all the others. Argumentative essays will let you either support, qualify, or challenge the points provided in the source material. You can use additional materials to prove and support your point.

AP Lang’s rhetorical analysis, on the other hand, requires you to delve deeper into the text. When asked to write this kind of essay, you’re supposed to dissect the source material to take a closer look at its message. It’s practically about explaining the obscured information within the text in these kinds of essays using AP Lang rhetorical devices.

In these essays, the exigence in the literary definition is the key point to locate and point out. In argumentative essays, you have to focus on a claim made in the source material.

Synthesis essays are often confused with argument essays as well. Do read our article  how to write a synthesis essay AP lang . This one is more research writing than the latter because you can use other sources to prove your point. You just need to rely on your logic, prior research, and other established facts for argument essays, on the other hand.

argumentative essay past tense

Among all of the other types of essays, argumentative essays are possibly confused with expository essays the most. While expository essays present ideas to readers and let them have their own opinions, there are also thesis-based expository essays. They won’t assert their point, however, which is the main characteristic of argumentative essays. They’ll just discuss a point with more specificity instead.

If you’re still a bit unsure about what argument essays are exactly, you can read argument essay examples online or in one of the  studypreplounge.com  reviewed and recommended AP Lang review books. They’ll help you become more familiar with the format and structure of such pieces.

How to Write an Argumentative Essay: 6 Points to Remember

To help you better understand what is and how to craft an argumentative essay for your  AP Language and Composition exam , here are a few crucial points that might help you out:

1. A firm stance is an absolute must.

As mentioned above, establishing a specific stand on the subject at hand is the key element of an argumentative essay. It’s absolutely necessary to have one even before you start writing your essay or it won’t exactly be considered as an argumentative essay.

Being firm on your stance is also crucial. You can’t feel wishy-washy on the point you’ve decided to push for because it won’t be as effective as you can imagine it to be. It would be best to make it so that you believe in the validity of your claim and that others should see it the same way as well.

Again, you don’t have to persuade your readers into taking the same stand. It’s just that argumentative essays prove to be more effective in establishing opinions if they’re made with a strong stand.

argumentative essay past tense

Where you stand will also help you come up with strong grounds to support your claim. By having an effective claim in an argumentative essay, you’ll be able to be more specific in adding evidence and asserting your point.

This will allow you to be more concise and help you establish your opinion in a more effective manner.

Choosing where to stand, however, can be a challenge. A lot of students get stumped in this area and that can cause a serious delay in your writing process. To help you choose which side to argue about, you should first take a step back and look at all sides in the discussion. Take down notes for both and consider which one you want to go for.

Some experts  recommend  taking the refute route in argumentative essays. They’re believed to be more interesting to read. However, take the refuting angle just for this reason. Sometimes it’s unreasonable to do so and you might not have enough knowledge to do so. It’s best to go with your strengths instead so you can more effectively establish your claim.

It’s also important to establish your stand right on the first paragraph of your essay. Crafting a thesis statement makes it clear that you’re writing an argumentative essay. This will also help you make your essay more concise which is one of the most popular AP Lang tips dished out by experts and former students of the class.

2. Your evidence should be correct, compelling, and sufficient.

Aside from a firm stand, having convincing and logical grounds to support your claim is also essential if you want to write a good argumentative essay. This can make or break the composition portion of your AP Lang exam because you have to make the right backup evidence to your argument. You can’t just state your opinion even if it’s easier to do so.

If you’re going to write an argumentative essay, your supporting evidence to your claim should be factual and well-thought out. They should help establish the validity of your claim and not make it feel like a subjective or conditional notion.

argumentative essay past tense

You should also make sure to use the right kinds of evidence in making your point in your argumentative essay.

The right supporting information will help you better get your point across and present it as a fact and not as a mere opinion.

With the wrong set of evidence, your claim will also be less appealing than it should be to your target audience. This can further affect its effectiveness and prevent readers from considering your claim.

How do you find the most effective supporting information? You’ll need to do a good amount of research for this. If the essay is a composition homework, you can turn to the internet and the library for good sources that can help support your claim.

Aside from the actual quality and validity of the points that support your claim, you should also make sure that there’s a clear connection between your claim and the reasons you’ve cited to argue your point. Having a warrant makes it easier for readers to understand the value of your points and it can contribute to the better establishment of your claim.

Finally, you also have to make sure that you’ll provide sufficient supporting points to your claim. You can’t just state your idea with a single evidence and call it a day. It won’t be convincing enough for most readers. To establish the validity of your point, it’s best to add at least three supporting points. These will help add more weight to your argument.

3. Layout your points first.

Instead of writing everything down right away in one sitting, it would be ideal to layout your points first before you craft your argumentative essay. It will make the task less overwhelming and will allow you to process your ideas with efficiency.

argumentative essay past tense

By creating an outline, you can plan your essay and craft it more effectively. You can also better state your arguments which can help you get your point across with its help.

A good outline will also let you lay out your supporting evidence so you can evaluate its merit. By doing so, you can be able to organize your thoughts.

This can help you come up with a good warrant and connect your points seamlessly. It will also let you move through the essay without a hitch and prevent you from repeating points. With its help, you can be sure to create a concise and effective argumentative essay.

Creating a chronological argument is another way to layout and plan your essay. It’s especially helpful to many writers as it allows the grounds to build off on itself. It will help you make connections between the points with ease which can then allow you to elaborate and support the point you’ve been trying to make.

How do you know if your outline is ready? Try rearranging the points. If they don’t make sense, use

the first outline you made to write an essay. If it still makes as much sense, it means you haven’t built off arguments from one point to another. You can still improve on this by going back on your set of evidence.

4. Use the right kind of language.

A strong argumentative essay is confident in its content. This is why the kind of language you’ll use also plays a vital role in the overall effect of the piece. Experts recommend using passionate language to better establish the fact that you’re not trying to present an opinion in your essay but you’re stating a valid argument.

Be straightforward and state the evidence you’ve gathered as the facts that they are. Avoid using qualifiers that will suggest subjectivity on your part. You shouldn’t note that your point is based on what you feel, think, or believe because they shouldn’t be based on those things. To make a stronger argument, you should be confident in what you’re saying.

argumentative essay past tense

However, you should also be very careful in appearing like an expert on the topic when you’re not one. This can affect the overall composition and feel of your essay.

Instead of making it more compelling, it might make your points sound untrustworthy and have an opposite effect to what you’re aiming for.

It’s also important to note that you should write in the present tense when crafting an argumentative essay. The ideas you have to present in these kinds of writing are applicable to the current times so it’s vital to present them as such. You can still write in the past tense, however, if you’re mentioning historical facts.

5. Craft a good counter-argument paragraph to further assert your point.

Aside from presenting your claim and its supporting points, it’s also recommended that you include a counter-argument paragraph in your essay. This will let you address the other points of contention in the topic you’re discussing to better establish and assert your stand.

By presenting the opposing side’s argument, you’ll be able to paint a bigger picture for your readers. It will let them know that you have a well-rounded knowledge about the topic and that you’re being objective in the points you’re raising.

However, by mentioning a counter argument example in your essay, you’ll also be able to block and shoot down opposing ideas to your claim. This will help you better establish your argument as the superior one. This act is a solid offense that also works as a good defense.

argumentative essay past tense

The placement of this section in your essay is a crucial one. Some like to put it right at the beginning of establishing their claim while others put it after enumerating their evidence. Some teachers might prefer the latter but it really depends on your writing style. It’s best to learn a few counter argument transition words no matter what the case for you is, though.

If you’re one of the many who finds crafting these portions tricky, you can always look up counter argument essay examples to help you out. They will better demonstrate how you should organize and compose your essay.

6. Wrap up your essay nicely.

Finally, you should also know how to properly close off your argumentative essay. While a good introduction will hook readers in, a good conclusion will help further establish your claim as a valid idea. It can further solidify the achievements you’ve made throughout your piece, adding a nice flourish to it.

What makes a good conclusion? It should be concise and not elaborate. It shouldn’t repeat everything you’ve mentioned in the body of your essay. It should, however, re-state your claim to better establish your point.

Some experts don’t think that a conclusion is necessary for a high AP Lang exam score, though. This might be true, especially if you know how to pace your essay nicely. You also shouldn’t compromise the body of your essay just to have a conclusion. If you feel like you’re going to do that, skip the conclusion entirely.

Handling Argumentative Essay Prompts

It’s crucial to be able to tell the different types of AP Lang essays if you want to get the best score during the exam. Exam prompts won’t tell you outright what kind of essay they want in the answers so you have to use your text analyzing skills to learn which type you should whip up.

argumentative essay past tense

To do this, you can start by reading the prompt very carefully at least twice. Reading and understanding the prompt is vital in doing well in the AP Lang exam.

You have to be absolutely certain in what they’re saying and asking you to do so you can answer the free response questions correctly.

There are established AP Lang terms used in the prompts that should clue you in, however. Test-takers will spot the words  ‘claim’  or ‘argue’ on the prompt that they’re supposed to write an argumentative essay for. They can then opt to support, refute, or qualify the arguments in the prompt in their answers.

To help you more easily determine which type of essay you should use, make sure to read and complete sample tests. You can also look up the test questions from the previous year’s exam. They will always include a good example of an argument essay question that should help you tell where you should answer in an argument format.

At first glance, crafting a good argumentative essay may seem like a hard task. However, with the help of this guide, we hope we were able to make it seem more doable for you. Since confidence is key in writing such pieces, we hope we were able to make you feel like you’re now able to whip up such essays without a hitch.

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Conjugation verb argument

Model : obey

Auxiliary : have , be

Other forms: argument oneself / not argument


  • you argument
  • he/she/it arguments
  • we argument
  • they argument
  • I argumented
  • you argumented
  • he/she/it argumented
  • we argumented
  • they argumented

Present continuous

  • I am argumenting
  • you are argumenting
  • he/she/it is argumenting
  • we are argumenting
  • they are argumenting

Present perfect

  • I have argumented
  • you have argumented
  • he/she/it has argumented
  • we have argumented
  • they have argumented
  • I will argument
  • you will argument
  • he/she/it will argument
  • we will argument
  • they will argument

Future perfect

  • I will have argumented
  • you will have argumented
  • he/she/it will have argumented
  • we will have argumented
  • they will have argumented

Past continous

  • I was argumenting
  • you were argumenting
  • he/she/it was argumenting
  • we were argumenting
  • they were argumenting

Past perfect

  • I had argumented
  • you had argumented
  • he/she/it had argumented
  • we had argumented
  • they had argumented

Future continuous

  • I will be argumenting
  • you will be argumenting
  • he/she/it will be argumenting
  • we will be argumenting
  • they will be argumenting

Present perfect continuous

  • I have been argumenting
  • you have been argumenting
  • he/she/it has been argumenting
  • we have been argumenting
  • they have been argumenting

Past perfect continuous

  • I had been argumenting
  • you had been argumenting
  • he/she/it had been argumenting
  • we had been argumenting
  • they had been argumenting

Future perfect continuous

  • I will have been argumenting
  • you will have been argumenting
  • he/she/it will have been argumenting
  • we will have been argumenting
  • they will have been argumenting
  • let's argument
  • argumenting
  • to argument

Perfect participle

  • having argumented

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Crackdowns, Attacks and Threat of War Put Iranians on Edge

Facing deep economic troubles and a restive population, the government seems to have adopted a policy of declaring victory over Israel and cracking down at home, analysts say.

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A group of people holding signs of protest against Israel and pictures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, with Iranian flags flying behind them.

By Farnaz Fassihi

In the early hours of Friday, Mehrdad, an engineer in Isfahan, Iran, woke to the sound of explosions rattling the windows and shaking the ground. In Tehran, passengers about to board flights were abruptly told the airspace was closed.

Israel, they soon learned, had attacked Iran.

As booms and gunfire went off in the distance, Mehrdad, 43, came to realize that the Israelis’ target was a military base on the outskirts of the city. He and his pregnant wife remained fearful that war would break out, he said in an interview by phone.

“I think Israel wanted to test the water and evaluate with last night’s strikes,” said Mehrdad, who, like others interviewed for this article, asked that his last name be withheld for fear of retribution. “I fear the worst is coming, but I also hope that things end here.”

So, apparently, does the Iranian government, which after a week of promising a forceful response to any Israeli attack on Iranian territory, appeared to be standing down from nearly going to the brink of war with Israel. Facing deep economic troubles and a restive population, the government seems to have adopted a two-track policy, analysts say, declaring victory over Israel and cracking down at home.

“The external and internal challenges are two sides of the same coin for the establishment,” Abbas Abdi, a prominent analyst and writer in Tehran, said in a telephone interview. “With both Israel and internal dissent, they are taking an aggressive approach because they think both issues have reached a boiling point where if they do nothing it will only get worse.”

The tit-for-tat attacks between Iran and Israel over the past three weeks were a startling and worrisome departure from the shadow warfare they have waged for decades, raising fears of a regional war. Iran responded to a deadly Israeli attack on its embassy compound in Damascus , Syria, by launching a barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles directly at Israel for the first time. A majority of them were intercepted.

World leaders implored Israel to respond with restraint, which it did on Friday, attacking an Iranian air force base with drones. The strike damaged the radar of an S-300 system responsible for the air defense of Natanz nuclear facility in central Iran. Israel also fired air-to-ground missiles toward Iran but deliberately inflicted little damage. Afterward, Iranian state news media and officials downplayed the attack.

Nasser Imani, an analyst in Tehran with close ties to the government, said Iran had dealt effectively with Israel and could now afford to de-escalate.

“Iranian officials do not want war with Israel,” he said in a telephone interview. “Iran will end it here and not directly engage any more because they feel they have established enough deterrence for now.”

The heightened tensions with Israel come as Iran teeters from crisis to crisis. The Iranian currency, the rial, has plunged this month, since the standoff began. It recently reached more than 660,000 rials to the dollar on the unofficial market, the most accurate measure of the economy.

Inflation, while down from the 40 percent rates of previous years, is still running at an annual rate of 32 percent. And Iranians have long complained about corruption and economic mismanagement by the ruling clerics and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which holds significant stakes in the economy.

More broadly, the government’s legitimacy is constantly challenged by an angry and resentful population that has taken to the streets in recent years. Iran’s government has long struggled with maintaining the revolutionary and Islamic ideals of the 1979 revolution that brought it to power as new generations of Iranians demand social and political freedom and prosperity.

The largest recent uprising, a 2022 revolt led by women, began as a protest against a law mandating that women and girls cover their hair and bodies with loose clothing. It soon morphed into protesters demanding an end to clerical rule. A voter boycott marred parliamentary elections in March, leading to historically low turnout and a high number of blank ballots.

Determined to head off a recurrence, the government began an offensive at home, Iranians say. It sent its security forces out to crack down on women not observing the hijab law, officials said.

Hours after launching its strike against Israel to retaliate for the Damascus attack, the Iranian government deployed battalions of security forces to swarm the streets of Tehran and many other cities. It violently cracked down on women defying the hijab rule, shuttered dozens of businesses for accommodating women without hijabs and threatened to punish anyone who dared to criticize or question its attacks on Israel.

Iranians described an atmosphere of intense security and surveillance as they went about their routines this past week.

Fahimeh, 32, said in a phone interview that she was on her way to the gym in Tehran last Monday when she encountered a heavily policed checkpoint stopping cars at random to inspect female drivers and passengers. A separate group, she said, was stopping women passing by on foot, many of whom were not covering their hair. Fearful, she pulled a scarf from her bag and covered herself.

Many women say the combination of the hijab crackdowns and the tensions with Israel is adding to their anxieties.

“Life is already very hard, I have no idea why the regime is doing this,” Pouneh, a 50-year-old English teacher in Tehran, said by phone. “Why all the crackdown over the hijab when they have entered a war against Israel? Everyone is tense and agitated.”

In several episodes captured on video that spread quickly on social media and were published on BBC Persian, the morality police berate, beat and drag women forcefully to police vans. One video showed an agitated woman collapsing on the sidewalk and struggling to breathe after an argument with the police as a crowd of passers-by gathered around her.

The scenes have set off an outpouring of anger and condemnation, particularly since the morality police were supposedly abolished during the protests in 2022, set off by the death of Mahsa Amini , 22, while in police custody. She was being held for violating the hijab rule.

Even supporters of the government have sharply criticized its decision to resurrect enforcement of the hijab rule, which the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced on April 13. They said the campaigns had backfired in the past and would only sow division and hatred during a time of high tensions with a foreign adversary.

“At this time-sensitive time, the country needs unity and calm to stand against the Zionist regime,” Mohammad Yousefinejad, a conservative lawyer and supporter of the government, said in a social media post . Activating the morality police stemmed from the Interior Ministry’s “stupidity and lack of understanding of priorities,” he added.

In the current atmosphere, however, the government has been particularly intolerant of criticism about the tensions with Israel. Mr. Abdi, the analyst, wrote a column in the Etemad newspaper last week saying it was not necessary for Iran to respond to Israel and cautioning that there would be social and economic costs to war. The judiciary promptly announced it had opened a criminal case against him and the newspaper.

Two well-known journalists, Hossein Dehbashi and Yashar Soltani, were summoned to court on charges of “disrupting the psychological security of society” in connection with social media posts expressing concerns about a widening war, local news media reported.

“The notification was received,” Mr. Dehbashi said in a post on X last week. “I will not write for a while.”

Analysts say the government will most likely pursue a policy of hostility toward Israel and uncompromising enforcement of hijab rules for some time.

“They are trying to send two very strong messages simultaneously,” said Sanam Vakil, the director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, a think tank based in London. “On one hand, Iran feels confident enough to hit Israel and at the same time insecure enough to try to assert the red lines on social and cultural issues inside so that nobody underestimates them.”

Leily Nikounazar contributed reporting from Belgium.

Farnaz Fassihi is the United Nations bureau chief for The Times, leading coverage of the organization, and also covers Iran and the shadow war between Iran and Israel. She is based in New York. More about Farnaz Fassihi


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