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Is it appropriate to use past tense when stating a fact in the context of the past but remains a fact until now?

Which of the following is correct?

I didn't go to school because I was lazy and the school was too far.

or

I didn't go to school because I was lazy and the school is too far.

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They're both valid, as is "I didn't go to school because I am lazy and the school is too far." Come to that, so is "I didn't go to school because I am lazy and the school was too far.", but that one probably implies you don't go to that particular faraway school any more. –  FumbleFingers Nov 22 '12 at 17:59
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

I would go with the former, with matched past tenses. The sentence implies an evaluation by you of the distance to school, and that occurred in the past. With the latter, it sounds like you didn't go to school in the past because of an evaluation of the distance occurring at the present time, which is mildly confusing. People will understand it, and native speakers might even say it, but it doesn't sound as good.

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It is worth mentioning that even in case of universal truths it is preferable that the rules of tense agreement be preserved. For instance, "I didn't know that Earth revolved around the Sun", even though Earth is, was, and hopefully will be revolving around the Sun. :) –  Armen Ծիրունյան Nov 22 '12 at 20:48
    
Is it safe to conclude that using the past tense doesn't necessarily mean the fact is no longer true anymore at the present time? –  supertonsky Nov 23 '12 at 7:52
    
Yes, if the context (surrounding clauses, sentences) is in the past tense. –  joseph_morris Nov 23 '12 at 20:53
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