"Cannot" vs "could not"

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"Cannot" vs "could not"

Bruce Momjian
We use "cannot" and "could not" quite often in source code and error
messages:

        $ grep .. 'cannot' | wc -l
        13180

        $ grep ... 'could not' | wc -l
        12149

I noticed it by looking for errors about parsing in our /bin tools:

        src/pl/plperl/ppport.h:      die "cannot parse version '$ver'\n";
        src/pl/plperl/ppport.h:      die "cannot parse version '$ver'\n";
        src/bin/pg_upgrade/server.c: pg_fatal("could not parse version file \"%s\"\n", cluster->pgdata);

This web page explains the difference well, i.e., "cannot" is present
tens, "could not" is past tense:

        https://www.englishforums.com/English/CannotVsCouldNot/bhprvk/post.htm

Is there any sense that we should have more consistency in our message
wording?

--
  Bruce Momjian  <[hidden email]>        https://momjian.us
  EnterpriseDB                             https://enterprisedb.com

+ As you are, so once was I.  As I am, so you will be. +
+                      Ancient Roman grave inscription +


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Re: "Cannot" vs "could not"

Tom Lane-2
Bruce Momjian <[hidden email]> writes:
> We use "cannot" and "could not" quite often in source code and error
> messages:

Yup.

> Is there any sense that we should have more consistency in our message
> wording?

There is specific guidance about it in our error message style guide:

https://www.postgresql.org/docs/devel/error-style-guide.html

(see under "Present vs. Past Tense").  I believe we largely conform
to that guideline, though of course exceptions sneak in from time
to time.

                        regards, tom lane


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Re: "Cannot" vs "could not"

Bruce Momjian
On Thu, Mar 19, 2020 at 12:07:35PM -0400, Tom Lane wrote:

> Bruce Momjian <[hidden email]> writes:
> > We use "cannot" and "could not" quite often in source code and error
> > messages:
>
> Yup.
>
> > Is there any sense that we should have more consistency in our message
> > wording?
>
> There is specific guidance about it in our error message style guide:
>
> https://www.postgresql.org/docs/devel/error-style-guide.html
>
> (see under "Present vs. Past Tense").  I believe we largely conform
> to that guideline, though of course exceptions sneak in from time
> to time.

Oh, good. I remember we discussed this in the past, but didn't realize
we had written it down.  Thanks.

--
  Bruce Momjian  <[hidden email]>        https://momjian.us
  EnterpriseDB                             https://enterprisedb.com

+ As you are, so once was I.  As I am, so you will be. +
+                      Ancient Roman grave inscription +