The following is a narration of something that had happened in the past.

My friend says to me, "What did you tell him yesterday?" In reply, I said, "I told him that I could do it when I was young and that I couldn't do it anymore because I'm old now."

Since I'm talking about something that I said in the past, I changed "can" to "could". Still, I'm unsure if I should change "couldn't" to "can". Should I keep "couldn't", and should it be "I was old" because it's something I said in the past?

I read the other threads they're different from my question.

  • Either one is fine. If something is still true when you use reported speech you can retain the present tense. Oct 25, 2017 at 0:19

1 Answer 1


Since the whole exchange being referenced is in the past, "couldn't" is the way to go. In terms of being old, you presumably are currently old, so "because I'm old now" is fine.

  • Although you said it yesterday, the second couldn't does not refer to the past, but to the present, both to yesterday and from that moment on. Since you said yesterday that you can no longer do it, can works as well as couldn't. Jul 26, 2017 at 17:24
  • @Yosef Baskin Well it refers to what I said event if it applies to the present too, I prefer to stick with could past / can future/present. , Like '' I said I would do it'', ( I haven't done it yet but I'm just saying what I said, the original sentence is ''I will do it'' even if when I said it I was talking about the future(the present we are in now .)
    – Difference
    Jul 26, 2017 at 17:30
  • See this ELL Q&A which supports the answer. Jul 26, 2017 at 22:09

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