I've found that some people use past tense when writing acceptance criteria in scrum user stories. I'm finding it confusing, but my coworker claims it's the only correct way.

 - It was not possible to add another product...
 - The user was redirected to the...

Which tense is correct when describing acceptance criteria in scrum stories? past, present or future?

  • there is no such thing as Scrum Stories (assuming you're referring to Scrum Framework). Is the tense used to describe stories a source of some issues? What issues? Do they matter? Why they matter? To whom? Does your team ability to deliver value depend on tense used in user stories? Commented Mar 1, 2016 at 14:27
  • It was live example taken from my work, where one Scrum Master is convinced that it should be in past tense, I wanted to get opinion about it
    – Tomasz Maj
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 12:44

3 Answers 3


Interesting question.

While it really does not matter I believe that linguistically it needs to be present tense.

It can never be past tense as it is describing something that has not been done yet.

  • It should not be possible to add the product...
  • The user should be redirected...


Follow the conventions of your behavior-driven development (BDD) framework. There is no mandatory grammar from a project management standpoint.

Scrum is Agnostic

Scrum doesn't prescribe a format for user stories. In fact, Scrum doesn't formally require the use of user stories or acceptance criteria at all. These types of artifacts are borrowed from methodologies like extreme programming, test-driven development, and the like.

Follow Your BDD Framework Conventions

How you write your tests will depend on your acceptance testing framework. For example, Cucumber uses the Gherkin language, which has given, when, and then keywords. These keywords guide the grammar and syntax of your stories, features, and scenarios. For example:

Given that I am using Cucumber,
When I write a Cucumber acceptance test in Gherkin
Then it will be written in the present- or future-perfect tense.


My rule of thumb is to write it down the simplest way possible in order to avoid misunderstandings, unnecessary discussions about English grammar (bike shed), and trolling.

Therefore I'm using simple present and encourage others to do the same. Under very rare circumstances, I'm using simple past, when defining preconditions. For example:

The user goes to the main page, clicks on the login button. 
He is on his home page and sees all the items he has in his inventory.

It is like writing or telling a good story; one uses the most efficient (which is understanding in this case) way to present the content. I don't see myself telling a story to my friends using past perfect continuous.

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