Sequence of tenses, and exceptions for emphasis

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I read this somewhere--a guy (the "candidate") was appealing a decision made against him, and, in his document, in one paragraph in particular, he initially speaks in the past tense, and, towards the end, he abandons the past tense and replaces it with the present tense (i.e., with "cannot" as opposed to "could not")--I guess to highlight what is at issue for appeal in his document.           Here is the paragraph:  "With such never-previously-cited-to examples, the objected-to opinions, and the exclusion of case studies, the board found the candidate cannot meet his burden of showing the proctor acted arbitrarily and without precedent."   My question: Could an argument be made that a disruption in tenses from past ("found") to present ("cannot") is grammatically correct if the candidate's purpose is to highlight what is subject to appeal (i.e., the finding that the candidate cannot meet his burden, as previously determined by the underlying board).  Or, on the other hand, must he have used "could not" as opposed to "cannot" no matter what.  In either case, please provide your layman explanation, and, yes, the technical grammatical term for the exception if there is one.

sequence tenses edited Oct 11 '13 at 07:42 Heather New member

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The board made the finding in the past.  The candidate cannot meet his burden.  Both can easily be true.  There is no grammatical error.  The writer could have said he could not, cannot, nor will ever be able to meet his burden in the future. 

link answered Oct 10 '13 at 10:51 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

Thanks, Patty, for clearing that up! With that said, do you have a preference, and, if so, why? For example, would you be inclined to maintain the past tense, and, thus, use "could not" approach?

HeatherOct 11 '13 at 07:30

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