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From: Ardith Hinton (1:153/716)
To: All
Date: Fri, 04.01.13 00:32
Can't/Couldn't... 1A.
Hi, Paul! Recently you wrote in a message to Alexander Koryagin:

ak> It was the third glass pane I can't carry to my house!"

PQ> An interesting story, Alexander. I would normally say
PQ> "couldn't".

Same here. As for *why* we do what we do... that's not always easy to
explain without using technical terms, but I'd say you managed quite well. Smile

PQ> It's probably something to do with tense.

Bingo! SmileWink

PQ> "Can't" means to comment on something in progress, I think.

Yes, "can" is present tense...

PQ> "Couldn't" implies that something that has occurred in the
PQ> past.

... and yes, "could" is the past tense of "can".

ak> I just thought now that maybe I should have used the Present
ak> tense -- the man's speech is direct, in quotes.

Irrelevant. Here's a direct quotation of a nursery rhyme:

I had a little nut tree;
Nothing would it bear,
But a silver nutmeg
And a golden pear.

The king of Spain's daughter
Came to visit me,
And all for the sake
Of my little nut tree.

IOW, the quotation marks indicate that you're repeating somebody's exact words.
I quoted the above example in the past tense because that's how I heard it as a
child. If the imaginary person in your example used the past tense because the
item in question had already been broken, "It *was* the third pane" is correct.

--- timEd/386 1.10.y2k+
* Origin: Wits' End, Vancouver CANADA (1:153/716)


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