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I read in some grammar book that "If the verb in the main clause is in the present tense we use 'will, can, may' in the adverbial clause of purpose and if it is in the past tense we use 'would, could, might' ", as in:

I write it down so that I can remember it later.

I wrote it down so that I could remember it later.

But what if I did something in the past so that I can do something now? Is it still the same structure? Or is this sentence idiomatic?

I wrote her number down so that I can call her now.

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    Your new version doesn't look idiomatic to me. The rule still applies: you had the intention in the past (when you wrote down the number) so using the present tense doesn't look right.
    – stangdon
    Aug 30, 2022 at 11:19
  • @stangdon This comment could form the basis of an answer. Aug 30, 2022 at 14:06
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    "I wrote her number down so that I can call her now." - this doesn't make sense. Something like this does though: "Because I wrote her number down, I can call her now." Aug 30, 2022 at 18:22

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Your point is correct, however it's about more than verbs and tenses. There is a slightly different meaning when you use can vs. could. For esample:

I wrote down her number so I can call her now.

It sounds a little awkward because it's now. If you change it to the future, it's more natural:

I wrote down her number so I can call her on Thursday.

This means that you intend to call her Thursday.

I wrote down her number so I could call her on Thursday.

It's not clear if this is about the past or the future. If it's about the past, then you never called her. If it's about the future, you're expressing doubt about whether you're actually going to call her.

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