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Which is more common for native speakers to use in the following construction, present or past?

She is really a good friend and she never 'fails/failed' to send me a letter each month.

  • Is the friend continuing to send you letters each month (present simple), or did she send letters each month for some time in the past but no longer does (past simple)? – geekahedron May 20 '19 at 15:08
  • @geekahendron: So both are correct in case the action is still going on or stopped at some point of time in the past. – Mido Mido May 20 '19 at 16:23
  • Neither is ambiguous. Saying "she never failed to send me a letter" indicates clearly that the action has stopped, and I would expect to see that phrasing coupled with some definitive time frame ("While I was away at college, she never failed to send me a letter each month."). In contrast, "she never fails to send me a letter" indicates clearly that the action is ongoing, and she is still sending you those letters. – geekahedron May 20 '19 at 16:26
  • Alternatively, you can also say she has never failed to send me a letter. (A phrasing that I personally prefer if I'm emphasizing a lack of some fault—assuming I don't say she always sends me a letter, the positive expression sounding more natural to me as a simple statement.) – Jason Bassford Supports Monica May 20 '19 at 17:03
  • @Jason: You're right, but with 'each day' it won't work. – Mido Mido May 20 '19 at 20:41
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The most common combination would be

She is really a good friend and never fails to send me a letter each month.

Reason: it's nice when the two clauses linked by "and" are in the same tense, when the context permits that. It certain does permit it here.

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