- Mendoza said that's the way it worked.
In this sentence why are we using that's?
Why not that was? Wouldn't that was be much better?
To clarify my question, Mendoza originally said
- "That's the way it works".
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Yes, I think you are right.
For that context, the indirect reported speech version of:
would not be grammatical when the original utterance was:
(Note: I'm using the phrase "not be grammatical" loosely here, for it to mean that the interpretation of the example sentence would not be what the speaker or writer had intended for that given situation.)
LONG VERSION: For the original utterance, let me un-contract the contraction so that we can see the verbs more clearly, and so we then have:
There are two present-tense verbs involved. The verb "is" heads the matrix clause. The verb "works" heads its subordinate clause, which happens to be an integrated relative clause.
Here are some acceptable indirect reported speech versions for that above utterance:
1.) Mendoza said [that was the way it worked]. -- [backshifted + backshifted]
2.) Mendoza said [that was the way it works]. -- [backshifted + non-backshifted]
3.) Mendoza said [that is the way it works]. -- [non-backshifted + non-backshifted]
Notice how the verbs in the subordinate clause "that is the way it works" can be backshifted or not backshifted (though, there is a constraint).
Version #1 would be considered to be the default version: that is, it is unremarkable. Version #2 might be preferred in some certain contexts. Version #3 might be preferred in some certain other contexts.
But the following version (which corresponds to the indirect reported speech version in the OP's post) is not acceptable for the OP's given situation:
That it is unacceptable makes sense, for even with the surrounding context, it would not be reasonable to expect the addressee or listener to figure out the speaker's intended meaning. Using the verb "is" in the subordinate clause is telling the listener that, from now on, there will be no more backshifting done--that the speaker will be reporting with the same tenses as used in the original utterance.
Here is a related excerpt from a vetted grammar source, the 2002 CGEL page 156:
Backshift with a complex original utterance
When the original utterance is complex, with a primary subordinate clause embedded in a main clause, the options are as shown in:
i. I am leaving before he returns. -- [original utterance]
ii. She said she was leaving before he returned. -- [backshifted + backshifted]
iii. She said she was leaving before he returns. -- [backshifted + non-backshifted]
iv. She said she is leaving before he returns. -- [non-backshifted + non-backshifted]
It is not possible, however, to have non-backshifted + backshifted (* She said she is leaving before he returned): once one has exercised the option of selecting a deictic tense, the option of selecting a non-deictic, backshifted, one is no longer available.
Thus if there is more than one level of embedding, as when the original utterance is I'm sorry I'm leaving before he returns, we can have a backshifted preterite corresponding to all three present tenses, the first two, or just the first one, but these are the only possibilities.
Notice that in the above CGEL excerpt, that it says "It is not possible, however, to have non-backshifted + backshifted", and that is precisely what the indirect reported speech version in the OP's post is attempting to do.
The 2002 CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL).
We have a third person here in this conversation.
Farooq said to Calypto, "Mendoza said that's the way it worked."
Calypto replied, "Who is this Mendoza?"
If the conversation was between two person, you and me, then:
Farooq said, "That's the way it works."
It's indirect speech would be:
Farooq said that that was the way it worked.
There are over 97 000 000 Google hits for 'That's how it was' [in double inverted commas].
It would be convenient to be able to say that one can regard that's as having a third expanded form, 'that was', but I can find no evidence to support this.
However, 'that's' is becoming a set idiom opaque to number and tense as Calif Jim says, at least in part, for the corresponding structures with it:
The It's or It is or It was ... are invariable in all versions of this formula.
Here are some examples:
That's John at the door.
That's just how it is.
That's the way it was in those days.
The latter two sentences would rarely be expanded to 'That is ...'.
Where confusion might occur, 'that was' must not be inferred:
That's John at the door ≠ That was John at the door.