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For the sentence,

He said he would buy a new car.

Does adding 'He said' in front make it sound like an event that happened in past? For example, if I write He would buy a new car then that could mean he might be going to buy a new car in the future. But when I write it with He said what difference would it make?

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That actually changes the meaning of the sentence, so I would not use it as a way of guaranteeing that "would" is interpreted in the past. The surrounding context is probably most helpful here as a way for you to place the timeframe of would. It would also help us to figure out what you're trying to say, since "he would buy" could be interpreted many ways. – JeffSahol Jun 18 '12 at 18:17
I'm trying to use "he would buy" to state a possible event that could happen in future. I'm not sure, If I add "He said" in front of it then would it make it sound like as if the event was already happened in the past? i.e. I know he already bought the car in the past but I'm saying it to another person using the 'would'. – user963241 Jun 18 '12 at 18:24
up vote 1 down vote accepted

He would buy a new car is likely to be used in a context in which such a purchase had turned out to be ill-advised. Such a sentence might, for example, be followed by I knew he couldn’t afford it, but he wouldn’t listen. In practice, the sentence would probably be He would go and buy a new car. Additionally, it might express a habitual past action: He would buy a new car every year even though he didn’t need one.

He said he would buy a new car is reported speech, but it is not possible to tell from that sentence alone whether he had bought a new car or not. It could be followed by . . . and so he did (so he’s bought one), or it could be followed by but he changed his mind (so he hasn’t).

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Saying "He said" definitely places the saying in the past. It does not say anything about when he would buy a new car, except that it would be sometime after "he said". So it does allow for the possibility that he did buy the car sometime before now.

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He said he would buy a new car is the equivalent of He said "I will buy a new car". That is, it was in the future at the time it was said, but, since that time is by definition in the past, nothing can be inferred about whether he actually has bought the car yet.

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To call your two examples equivalent is over-reaching; in a hypothetical-question context they are not equivalent. – jwpat7 Jun 18 '12 at 18:38
@jwpat; please explain further. There is nothing hypothetical about He said. – TimLymington Jun 18 '12 at 18:50
Suppose "He said he would buy a new car" is a reply to a question like "What did he say when you asked what he would do with a hypothetical sum of money?". The reply "He said 'I will buy a new car'" is not at all equivalent. – jwpat7 Jun 18 '12 at 18:59
+1, however in my native language "He said he would buy a new car" is ungrammatical, being the correct structure the following: "He said he would have buy a new car." – user19148 Jun 18 '12 at 21:39
@Carlo_R.; As jwpat7 pointed out, the answer to your question depends on the wording of the previous sentence (which you don't give). After I asked him what he would have done if his lottery ticket had come up last Saturday, the correct English is He said he would have bought a new car. – TimLymington Jun 18 '12 at 22:48

Adding "he said" before "he would buy a new car" makes the statement a past event. The other statement speaks of future. However, "would" doesn't suggest any commitment that he will buy a car, it just suggests that he wants to buy it.

Now about the difference between the two sentences with and without "he said" is that

  1. Without "he said": he wants to buy a new car sometime in future, but he doesn't say for sure.

  2. Otherwise, it means that he wanted to buy a car and you don't know if he bought it after saying or he is still planning to buy sometime in future, but no surety again. That is how "would" is different from "will" - in terms of surety.

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