• Can't/Couldn't... 1A.

    From Ardith Hinton@1:153/716 to Paul Quinn on Fri Mar 2 18:00:57 2018
    Hi, Paul! Recently you wrote in a message to Alexander Koryagin:

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

    An interesting story, Alexander. I would normally say

    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. :-)

    It's probably something to do with tense.

    Bingo! :-))

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

    Yes, "can" is present tense...

    "Couldn't" implies that something that has occurred in the

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

    I just thought now that maybe I should have used the Present
    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)