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A man could not always be where he belonged, though. (George RR Martin, Game of thrones, Eddard,p117) and this one (my suggestion): A man can not always be where he belongs, though. (appears more acceptable to me)

I cannot understand why Martin used a past tense for a fact! If it is a fact -and it seems like a fact that we cannot be where we belong at all times-, shouldn't he be using a present tense?

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It's a story written in the past tense. See all the verbs? Martin is stating what Ned was thinking. Call it 'reported thought'. An indication that Ned's thoughts are about to be reported is the phrase 'he wondered'.

For a moment Ned did not follow. He had run out of words, and he was filled with a vast sense of helplessness. Not for the first time, he wondered what he was doing here and why he had come. He was no Jon Arryn, to curb the wildness of his king and teach him wisdom. Robert would do what he pleased, as he always had, and nothing Ned could say or do would change that. He belonged in Winterfell. He belonged with Catelyn in her grief, and with Bran. A man could not always be where he belonged, though. Resigned, Eddard Stark put his boots into his horse and set off after the king.

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  • Thank you Michael, now that makes sense ! BM Aug 26 '20 at 22:29

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