Say, a person posts a topic in a forum, asking for an appropriate English word to be used in a particular context. I reply with one that seemed fitting to me, and add:

"All I could recall beyond that was (here comes one additional word)."

Is that correct in terms of tense choice or should I rephrase it to

"All I can recall beyond that is ..."

Or even:

"All I've been able to recall beyond that is ..."

I'm also curious whether the addition of "so far" would make sentence 1 outright erroneous:

"All I could recall beyond that so far was ..."

Sorry if the question is too simple. I catch myself making mistakes and find asking questions a good way to make myself pay attention.

1 Answer 1


I believe the most common practice is to write in the present tense, whereupon readers in the future will interpret your words as a report on that moment in time.

I find your second idea best, and would say it that way.

All I can recall beyond that is [word 2].

The notion of “so far” is sufficiently captured by the use of present tense. It says “at the time of this writing, this is my state; this is what I currently know or can recall.” If you wanted to emphasize this fact, I'd recommend simply adding weight to the present-ness of what you are saying. Something like:

All I can recall right now is . . .

All I can recall at this moment is . . .

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    All I've been able to recall would also work, and expresses the idea that they've been trying to recall for a little while. Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 16:49
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    @starsplusplus It would, yes, but in my opinion the net value to clarity is low because this introduces an indefinite expanse of effort into the past, which furthermore potentially seeps into all prior attempts at recollection of any kind. I think it's sufficiently clear from a present-tense phrasing that the speaker exerted effort over a brief prior period, focused on the task at hand—especially with his use of “can” suggesting that he's reached the limit of his ability or capacity to recall anything more. Commented Jan 23, 2014 at 17:03

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