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My friend told me: "I am going to sell my bicycle when I buy a car tomorrow". He bought a car last Monday and sold his bicycle on the same day. Now, how can I convert this to an indirect speech statement:

1- My friend told me that he was going to sell his bicycle when he would buy a car the next day.

2- My friend told me that he was going to sell his bicycle when he bought a car the next day.

3- My friend told me that he was going to sell his bicycle when he buys a car the next day.

My friend has already sold his bicycle and has bought a car. Which one is correct? and if they all are correct which one seems more natural?

Application of the back-shifting rule results in the second option. However it doesn't sound very natural.

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    Theyre all grammatical. I have no idea which is correct; they're also all ambiguous. – John Lawler Mar 6 '15 at 1:35
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    I find only #2 acceptable. I think I would hear others say #1. #3 is awful -- not English (after editing "we" to "he"). – Greg Lee Mar 6 '15 at 2:05
  • I am not not familiar with the term "reported speech". Could someone explain? Someone speaking, and someone else reported on that speech? – Blessed Geek Mar 6 '15 at 2:55
  • I think that the next day is misplaced here and its use makes all three sentences gramatically incorrect and also ambiguous. I wouldn't even use the next day, but (on) the day instead (the original sentence suggests that the car purchase and the bicycle sale both took place on the same day), and I would place it after the first part of the sentence, not at the very end. My friend told me that he was going to sell his bicycle the day he would buy a car. – Amir Sabanovic Mar 6 '15 at 19:15
  • @Amir is correct: the tricky part is "the next day". I'd just say "My friend told me that on the following day he was going to sell his bicycle and buy a car." You don't need the when clause, because you already know when: it happens on the next day. – Peter Shor Mar 6 '15 at 20:43
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The day after telling me that he would sell his bike when he bought a car, my friend bought a car and sold his bike.

This sounds reasonably natural, but I think most speakers would opt for the following.

The day after telling me that he would sell his bike when he bought a car, my friend did just that.

  • The question is all about how to express that the friend told you that the transactions would take place the day after he told you his plans. You've totally left that information out of your versions. – Barmar Mar 6 '15 at 21:17
  • @Barmar That's quickly rectified... – Paul Rowe Mar 6 '15 at 21:22
  • OK, now you've expressed that it took place the day after, but not that he told you it WOULD take place the day after. In your versions, he just told you that the transactions would take some time in the future, and it just happened to be the day after. – Barmar Mar 6 '15 at 21:26
  • But it's close enough that I retracted my downvote. – Barmar Mar 6 '15 at 21:26
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The problem is that the next day is in the wrong position in the reported speech (when it wasn't in the original speech).

Consider what happens when you remove when from the sentence.

"I am going to sell my bicycle and buy a car tomorrow."

You might think that this turns into reported speech as:

My friend told me he was going to sell his bicycle and buy a car the next day.

But I would interpret that as reported speech for

"I am going to sell my bicycle and buy a car the next day,"

when your friend is saying he's going to sell his bicycle on some unspecified day and buy a car on the following day. You can fix it with:

My friend told me that on the following day, he was going to sell his bicycle and buy a car.

In the OP's sentence with when, the position of "the next day" clause makes it ungrammatical. From the position of "the next day" clause, it should mean the day after he sells his bicycle. That interpretation makes no sense, so we discount it. However, even when we realize "the next day" is the day after your friend told you this, the sentence still sounds wrong.

The right way of making it into reported speech without "the next day" clause is

My friend told me that he was going to sell his bicycle when he bought a car.

And the best position to add this clause is:

My friend told me that on the following day, he was going to sell his bicycle when he bought a car.

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Of the 3 statements, 1. might be grammatically correct but absolutely no one would voice it. Of 2. and 3., I think a native English speaker could utter either but I think 3. is more correct. What is being stated here is the outcome of a future event but "bought" is a past tense; "buys" is more correct since it is being used as a future tense. By the way, if I'm correct that "buys" is the future tense of "buy" then the often stated opinion that there are only two tenses in English, past and present, seems to be, to some extent, wrong. It seems that some verbs do have a future tense. In particular, how else can "buys" be used other than with a future meaning? In fact, statement 3 can be shortened thus and still make sense: "My friend told me that he was going to sell his bicycle when he buys a car.".

  • Did you read the question carefully? He has already bought the car. It's not a future event, even though it was when he told his friend he would. – Peter Shor Mar 6 '15 at 20:30

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