Verb tenses used in meeting minutes
Thread poster: Laureana Pavon

Laureana Pavon  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 11:15
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
May 6, 2009

I'm curious to know whether it is more common for meeting minutes to be drafted in present or past tense.

As far as I know, in South America they are usually drafted in the present tense, but I was wondering what verb tense is used in the US/UK.

For example, would the minutes of a US/UK meeting read:

"X proposes discussing the issue at hand, to which Y replies..."

or

"X proposed discussing the issue at hand, to which Y replied..."

Thanks!!

Laureana


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autor  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 15:15
Member
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Past Tense in English May 6, 2009

but usually present tense in Portuguese and Spanish. It's necessary to change all the tenses another level into the past for them to read as they are normally drafted in English.

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Kathryn Sanderson  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:15
French to English
Past in the US May 6, 2009

I used to take minutes at work, and as a volunteer at my food co-op. I used the past for the context you gave: "X proposed....and Y replied...."

I think this is pretty standard US practice, but I don't know what they do in other parts of the English-speaking world.

Kathryn


N.B. Sometimes minutes are written in a telegraphic style, which greatly reduces the need to use tenses. Note the verbs: they are mostly in the passive voice, but the auxiliaries are eliminated.

Example: "Motion to approve last meeting's minutes, by X, seconded by Y. Minutes approved 10-0."

Instead of: "X moved to approve the minutes of the last meeting. Y seconded. The minutes were approved 10-0."


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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:15
French to English
Past tense, reported speech May 6, 2009

That, at least, is the traditional way in the UK.

I remember in my youth seeing some spoof minutes which included the line:

....(blah blah)
Mr Smith said oh his God.

Curiously, I find that this little fragment, which I found highly amusing at the time (in the fuller context of the whole spoof), helps me remember how to deal with minutes.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:15
Italian to English
+ ...
Definitely past tense May 6, 2009

I often translate/revise minutes, and it really gets my goat when someone takes the standard Italian (present tense) and translates it directly into the English present tense. That's not how we do it, folks - at least, not in the UK.

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Laureana Pavon  Identity Verified
Uruguay
Local time: 11:15
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! May 6, 2009

Many thanks to all of you for your input!

Charlie: I liked your "Oh his God" spoof

Cheers!

Laureana


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:15
Italian to English
Past perfect May 6, 2009

I have acted as Secretary to my local Lions club for many years and much of the minutes consists of reports on what has already happened.
"The Committee Chair reported that X Y and Z had joined her at a fundraising event on behalf of the local Blind Society."


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Buck
Netherlands
Local time: 16:15
Dutch to English
Definitely past tense in English May 7, 2009

afaik minutes are translated in the past tense in English.

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Martin Wenzel
Germany
Local time: 16:15
English to German
+ ...
What about a company history.... May 7, 2009

I had a company history to translate the other day, which was a short telegraphic-sytele outline within my big translation. First I had in the present tense, but I then changed it to past tense.

My American friend tells me /told me present tense would have been fine, too, but I am not so sure...

In 1955, Unilever buys or bought xxxx
in 1978, Unilever joins or joined McIntosh...

So what's better?



Martin


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TonyTK
German to English
+ ...
Working in mysterious ways May 7, 2009

Charlie Bavington wrote:

Mr Smith said oh his God.



Nice. Reminds me of a translation I was reading a couple of weeks ago about ETFs (exchange traded funds) "with god as the underlying asset".

They meant "gold", of course.


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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:15
Spanish to English
+ ...
past tense:-) May 7, 2009

And if you want to see lots of council meetings and minute taking, see TV Shack > Television > Vicar of Dibley: http://tvshack.net/tv/The_Vicar_of_Dibley/

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Lisa Mann
Spanish to English
+ ...
this cracked me up Aug 20, 2009

I know this discussion is like two years old, but I came across it trying to figure out if I should translate the minutes to a meeting in present (like the original Spanish text) or past. It's hilarious! Made me laugh out loud...

Lisa

Charlie Bavington wrote:

That, at least, is the traditional way in the UK.

I remember in my youth seeing some spoof minutes which included the line:

....(blah blah)
Mr Smith said oh his God.

Curiously, I find that this little fragment, which I found highly amusing at the time (in the fuller context of the whole spoof), helps me remember how to deal with minutes.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:15
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Spain: Present tense Aug 20, 2009

This is a very interesting topic Laureana. Thank you! I just wanted to report that it is present tense in Spain as far as I have seen so far.

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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:15
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Excellent, Charlie! Aug 21, 2009

Charlie Bavington wrote:

That, at least, is the traditional way in the UK.

I remember in my youth seeing some spoof minutes which included the line:

....(blah blah)
Mr Smith said oh his God.

Curiously, I find that this little fragment, which I found highly amusing at the time (in the fuller context of the whole spoof), helps me remember how to deal with minutes.


Excellent, as usual, Charlie!
In the modern "gender" conscious world, might it even be "the chairperson said oh her God"?
Yes, minutes in UK English use past tenses (reported speech), whereas I note that in French and Spanish they use the present. As already pointed out in another post here, that means paying attention to the sequence of tenses, e.g. "The secretary reported that membership had declined in the past six months and said it would be a good idea to introduce a membership campaign".
Somewhat off-topic, but, as a history enthusiast, I've noticed that historical TV programmes in the UK now use the present tense instead of the past, e.g. "In 1588 Elizabeth makes a rousing speech to her troops from horseback at Tilbury and sends them off to defeat the Spanish armada" instead of "In 1588 Elizabeth made a rousing speech to her troops from horseback at Tilbury and sent them off to defeat the Spanish armada".
This annoys me (I'm easily annoyed). Is it because TV producers think past tenses too taxing for the modern viewer?
Best wishes,
Jenny


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Verb tenses used in meeting minutes

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