Please help me to find out the right answer.

He said that they ______ each other for many years.
a) know
b) have known
c) knew
d) had known

In the book I referred the right answer is d). Anybody can explain why it selected and why the answer is not a)?

  • 1
    There are some rules about reported speech in grammars.studyandexam.com/indirect-speech-for-tense.html
    – rogermue
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 2:44
  • @rogermue as per the link you shared, They said, “we love our country” changed to They said that they loved their country . PRESENT SIMPLE changes into PAST SIMPLE. so in the question i asked it should be He said that they know each other Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 3:33
  • He said that they knew each other.
    – rogermue
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 4:18

2 Answers 2


Your book is not wrong, but it is not right, either. Every one of the answers except (a) may be acceptable in some contexts; and I'm not sure that an appropriate context for (a) is impossible.

b. I asked Brian this morning about Harry. He said that they have known each other for years, and anything he says can be relied on.

c. I asked Harry about Tom. He said that they knew each other for years back in the 70s and 80s, then lost touch until 98 when they ran into each other at LaGuardia.

d. I asked Tom about how Kevin came to the firm. He said that they had known each other for years when he founded the firm, and Kevin was the first person he asked to join.


Letter answer A is incorrect because it uses the present conjugation of the verb to know and we know by the part of the sentence "for many years" that it is a chunk of time in the past.

Letter answer B is incorrect because while it works with the "for many years" chunk of the statement, it implies that the knowing is still ongoing because the verb "to have" is in the present. We know this is incorrect because the verb "to say" is conjugated in the past where it says "he said" at the start of the sentence.

Letter answer C is incorrect because although it works with all of the tenses, it does not allow for the chunk of time they had known each other for.

Letter answer D is correct because it follows all of the tense rules as well as supports the "many years" idea by having both "to have" and "to know" in past tenses. This past perfect conjugation works.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like me to delve further into the why of it.

  • The knowing could easily still be ongoing, in which case (B) is perfectly grammatical. (Maybe not according to 19th century formal English grammar, which is what many ESL classes teach, but grammar changes, and this is the 21st century.) Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 13:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.