I know the main idea behing the reported speech (shifting of tenses) but one of the textbooks I have says:

I like pizza.

He said he liked pizza.

But I think that if he likes pizza, he likes in in general and he still like it when we report that statement of his/hers. So I think it should be:

He said he likes pizza

in case he is still alive and has not changed his mind. Is that correct?

  • Add an 's': 'He said he likes pizza.' And I will agree with you. – Jim Aug 26 '13 at 6:07

The default is that, in the words of the ‘Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English’ (LSGSWE), ‘the tense of the verb in the indirect quote agrees with the past tense of the reporting verb’. That is the case in ‘He said he liked pizza.’

However, the LSGSWE goes on to say ‘although this use of past tense in reported speech is common, reported speech also occurs with other tenses’, and gives examples in which ‘the reporting verb is in the past tense, but the verb in the indirect quote remains in the present tense, emphasizing that the circumstances expressed . . . are still continuing.’ That seems to be the case with ‘He said he likes pizza.’


I agree with the first paragraph of the answer from @BarrieEngland, and I also agree that the reported statement could be written in the present tense.

I would add that in writing "He said he liked pizza", there is no indication of whether he said that two minutes ago, or two years ago. In the latter case, we do not know whether he still likes pizza, and reporting the statement in the past tense is quite appropriate.

[I know that those comments may not apply very well to this particular case, but they are intended as a generic principle.]

  • Especially when the Reported Speech is first introduced, students ought to be informed that, unless there is clear context, they should always assume the statements to have been made well in the past so that the statement shouldn't be seen as still true now (at the time of reporting). Although I much prefer when books give examples that stand in spite of the context. – SC for reinstatement of Monica Jun 9 '16 at 10:10

Let me expand on Barrie's answer a bit. This is a point of English grammar that is changing, and I suspect is changing relatively fast.

In the 19th and early 20th century, you could not use the present tense in reported speech for things that were still true. See the Google Ngram for told me he wanted/wants.

It seems to me that both are now equally acceptable (rather than the past being the default, as Barrie reports the Longman Grammar says), and it is possible in another 50 years, we will only use the present tense for things that are still true.

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