# How to express a "simple past" idea that could happen in the future?

Ok, Let's see this conversation.

Tom & Mary are working in a shop right now. It is 4 pm NOW. Normally the working hour will finish at 5 pm.

Tom: There is not too much work today. Can I leave at 4.35?

Mary: You can leave at 4.45 because if you leave before 4.45, the boss will ask you, "Why did you leave so early?"

Now my question is that how can we change the sentence if we omit the double quotation mark?

If I write the sentence like this (You can leave at 4.45 because if you leave before 4.45, the boss will ask you that why you left so early.), then will it break the universe?

• Just remove "that". You can leave at 4.45 because if you leave before 4.45, the boss will ask you why you left so early. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 10:40
• Just by the by, because ask takes interrogative clauses you need a clause beginning with a wh- word, you can't use that here ... Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 10:44
• +1 Nice question! [Just by the by, because ask takes interrogative clauses you need a clause beginning with a wh- word, you can't use that here ...] Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 10:52
• @Mamta, if I say "You can leave at 4.45 because if you leave before 4.45, the boss will ask you why you left so early.", then will it break the universe because the "leaving" action has not happened yet?
– Tom
Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 11:19
• No @Tom it will not because "the boss will ask" is a future statement, not a present or past one. But since by that time, Tom would have left, the boss will on the next occasion of meeting him bring up the question and ask him why he left early. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 11:48

## 1 Answer

It sounds like the boss will ask that at some later time, when he/she finds out. In that case: "If you leave before 4:35, the boss will ask why you left so early".
We do not normally tense-shift this into "the boss will ask why you will have left so early".

If the boss would see Tom leaving and ask right in that moment, then the sentence should be: "If you leave before 4:35, the boss will ask why you are leaving so early".

I'll note the original direct-speech sentence in your question is broken in two ways. Mary should have said: You can leave at 4.45 because if you leave before 4.35, the boss will ask you "why did you leave so early".

When you ask someone "that XYZ", you're making a request, not a question. In a similar vein, you can say "my question is how we can…" or "my question is: how can we…", but not "my question is that how can we…"

• I agree with the first part of this answer (+1), "If you leave before 4:35, the boss will ask why you left so early". Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 10:50
• My note about brokenness refers to the original, pre-edit version of the question. Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 10:57