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It wasn't that my mother and I didn't care about Spike; it's just that he broke/breaks things faster than we could fix them.

Over

It wasn't that my mother and I didn't care about Spike; it's just that he would break things faster than we could fix them.

What's the right form? (By the way, should I write it's just that... or it was just that? The sentence is in the past tense.)

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All are possible!

It wasn't that my mother and I didn't care about Spike; it's just that he broke things faster than we could fix them -purely past event. He broke things faster...once...but now he may not.

It wasn't that my mother and I didn't care about Spike; it's just that he breaks things faster than we could fix them -he has a habit of breaking things faster than you could fix it. The habit was there in the past as well!

It wasn't that my mother and I didn't care about Spike; it's just that he would break things faster than we could fix them -'would' also talks about his past habits. Such constructions are common in storytelling (say I'm describing my love... Mary and I would sit on the bench and enjoy the lovely sunset)

But you said that the event belongs to yesteryear. So...it's in the past. Then let's make everything in past!

It wasn't that my mother and I didn't care about Spike; it was just that he broke things faster than we could fix them.

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  • I'm confused. I thought that I could write It's just that because it can also refer to the present. The fact (existent even now) is that at that time something happened. Like when you write that's when he appeared. Maybe I'm wrong? – alexchenco Jan 5 '15 at 13:05
  • I'm away. May get back once on computer – Maulik V Jan 5 '15 at 13:52
  • @ Maulik V OK, no problem. I appreciate that. – alexchenco Jan 5 '15 at 14:03
  • @Alexchenco, when you used wasn't and didn't instead of isn't and don't, you set the sentence in the past tense. – The Photon Jan 5 '15 at 16:39
  • @ThePhoton What if the OP started the sentence with It's not that and didn't? – Damkerng T. Jan 6 '15 at 0:32

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