Usage and Grammar

Q. Tense is confusing me, and it’s probably because I’m overanalyzing everything. Please help! Aren’t the two verb tenses saying the same thing? And if so, is paragraph consistency the deciding factor on which tense to use? “The early work focused/focuses on . . .” “Once the cards are / have been put away . . .” “I hope this gives / will give you courage . . .” “As we discuss/discussed in the previous paragraph . . .”

A. Yes, they say the same thing. English is flexible that way. There are subtle differences in tenses that sometimes make one choice better than the other, but this is usually quite obvious and shouldn’t require a lot of analysis. Local consistency usually reads more smoothly.