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Jonathan Irvin
Jonathan Irvin

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What tense do you use in Git Commit messages?

Let's pick each other's brains for a sec.

Do you use past or imperative tense in your commit messages?


added button to page


add button to page


Why? Pros vs. cons? Have you tried one and moved to the other? Which one makes better sense?

Top comments (31)

hardkoded profile image
Darío Kondratiuk

I love these guidelines

”A properly formed Git commit subject line should always be able to complete the following sentence:

If applied, this commit will your subject line here
For example:

If applied, this commit will refactor subsystem X for readability”

ewoks profile image

Meaning imperative instead of present or past tense

cjbrooks12 profile image
Casey Brooks

I usually use the present tense. It sounds more natural when thinking in terms of "what does this specific commit do". I think of a commit is a snapshot of an event, rather than a fixed point in history or a changelog.

jerodsanto profile image
Jerod Santo

It sounds more natural when thinking in terms of "what does this specific commit do".

+1000 to this. It also lends itself to easier reading/scrolling through git log. 👌

dopitz profile image
Daniel O. • Edited

Here is a small statistic based on the Github commit messages:

Fix: 25M
Fixed: 12M
Fixing: 22M
Fixes: 23M

Add: 25M
Added: 22M
Adding: 19M

Update: 18M
Updated: 14M
Updating: 18M

Remove: 25M
Removed: 18M
Removing: 18M
Removal: 7M

Delete: 7M
Deleted: 8M
Deleting: 9M

We can see that the imperative is used a little more than the past tense.

Personally, I use past tense because it sounds more polite.

dmfay profile image
Dian Fay • Edited

The imperative is a mood not a tense! :) I use present tense and follow the Conventional Commits specification on most projects ("fix: disable current deployment type in index filters").

smuschel profile image

I'm using past tense (at least mostly) because the commit reflects something I did in the past. Seems natural to me this way...

acostalima profile image
André Costa Lima • Edited

I usually follow the guidelines proposed here which I think they make valid points. See section 5: use the imperative mood in the subject line.

I also adhere to the Conventional Commits spec.

claire profile image
Claire Martinez

I finish this sentence "If you pull this it ..."

adds new feature to menu
updates readme
fixes broken sql

jochemstoel profile image
Jochem Stoel

This is good.

foresthoffman profile image
Forest Hoffman

Using imperatives is the official way of writing commit messages, as if each message were prefixed by "This commit will...". I personally prefer this as it's very straightforward and shortens some messages by a few characters.


It's also a good idea to use the imperative present tense in these messages. In other words, use commands. Instead of "I added tests for" or "Adding tests for," use "Add tests for."

joelnet profile image
JavaScript Joel • Edited

I like to use Imperative for consistency with Jira tickets.

ABC-1234 add Either type
-------- ---------------      
    \           \
  Ticket       Title
yaser profile image
Yaser Al-Najjar • Edited

I was using past tense till I realized present simple is being used in GitHub, GitLab, and GitKraken commits (Add/Update README, Merge: foo, Revert: bar).

refack profile image
Refael Ackermann

I use present these.
For the title 3rd person singular, reffing to the commit as the object:

tools: add new feature

In the body I use second person singular, referring to the commit as the subject:

* fixes something
* adds something else
yorodm profile image
Yoandy Rodriguez Martinez

It depends on the level of my caffeine gauge

derek profile image
derek • Edited

Because Tower and Git Kraken have character limits in subject lines...

I too am guilty of using emojis 😀 ie:

  • 🐳(docker)
  • 📦(package)
  • 🐛(bug)
  • 🔧(fix)
  • ⚠ (warn)
  • 🚧 (WIP)
  • 👀(need more eyes on it)
  • ❓(questionable code, probably need to refactor)

I also use shell cmd abbreviations:

  • rm = remove
  • cp = copy
  • mv = moved/renamed
  • * = wildcard things

I love Tower and Git Kraken because it's easy to select the specific lines to group LOC that is coherent to the given context of the commit.

In the commit body I try to use numbers as a convention:


  1. What: Create an Eat() fn.
    • Feeds a 🤖
  2. Why: Fuels 🤖to calculate numbers
    • If 🤖doesn't eat, it doesn't calculate
    • A 😀 🤖is a productive 🤖
  3. How: Mostly uses 🌮s and 🍲
    • Uses a 🦄library
    • Definitely 🎩 in that 🦄library
dmahely profile image
Doaa Mahely

I'm very much a git newbie. I learned it a few months ago from Udacity and I believe the only directive given regarding commit messages was to use verbs! However, I regularly use the past tense when I write commit messages. This is because I look at my log when I try to think of what I did, so things like added, removed and fixed etc. But a lot of people have raised good points about using the present tense. I may make the switch in my next repo.

cathodion profile image
Dustin King

Imperative. I don't know why, but I picked it up as the norm at some point.

This is a retroactive justification, but it seems natural to read each commit as though it's happening right now, or that the commit headline is the instruction and the code changes are carrying it out.