Can I use brackets to change the tense of a verb so that a quotation will fit syntactically into my sentence?
When a verb in a quotation does not fit syntactically into your sentence, you may use brackets to change the tense:
If Charles Dickens were alive today, he would likely say, “It [is] the best of times, it [is] the worst of times” (5).
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Updated and rev. ed., Penguin Classics, 2003.
Brackets can be distracting to your reader, though, so it is often better to revise:
In 1859, Charles Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” (5). If he were alive today, he would likely make a similar comment about our era.