|With Newton's first law, the word "tends" seems a bit ambivalent. Does this word suggest there are exceptions to the rule?
The statement of inertia contains the word "tends" (an object in motion tends to continue in motion and object at rest tends to remain at rest) because it doesn't deal with the presence or absence of forces. If forces were outlawed, then the word "tends" could be dropped from the statement.
However, Newton's first law is not ambivalent and does not contain the word "tends." It states directly that an object that's free of outside forces moves at constant velocity. No ifs, ands, or buts. If I have inserted the word "tends" into this law in class, it was a mistake on my part.