I asked if he speaks English

I asked if he spoke English

Speak or spoke?
Colloquially, is it correct to say speaks?

  • Both are okay. "Spoke" is the backshifted version. – user73373 May 7 '15 at 8:57

I asked if he hunts bears. Yes, he hunts bears for a living. He is a bear hunter. He kills bears.

Yesterday, I asked if he killed the bear lying on the road. No, he has not killed any bear since the hunting season has closed. Someone else killed the bear illegally.

He speaks French. Last week he spoke French to his mother. He has not spoken French since then.

I asked him if he speaks Canadian French or Louisiana French. He said he speaks both dialects.

I asked him if he speaks Canadian or Cajun French with his mother. He says when his mother is angry with him, he speaks with her in Canadian dialect. Otherwise, he speaks to her in Cajun.

I asked him if he spoke Canadian or Cajun French to his mother last week. He said he could not remember because his mother was rather angry with him.

  • In indirect speech we generally back shift the tense. And if what is said is still true at the time of reporting then we can retain the tense. So if he still speaks English then we don't back shift the tense. So is this the reason for not back shifting in "He asked if he speaks English.'? – iamRR May 7 '15 at 13:00
  • "@Blessed Geek" -- And what would you say about - I asked his name is. I asked where he lives. – iamRR May 7 '15 at 13:19
  • I asked where he lives/lived ? – iamRR May 9 '15 at 6:34
  • 1
    I asked where he lived before he got married. I also asked where he lives now. – Blessed Geek May 10 '15 at 8:00

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