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Can anyone please tell me if there is any need to backshift the tense?

Here is the example:

Yesterday, as a consultant I went to meet my friend Peter who has been found guilty of fraud. He claimed that he is/was not guilty of any fraud.

Can I use the 'simple present' too?

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The normal rule for reported speech requires a backshift in tense, yielding

“I’m not guilty!”       He said he wasn't guilty.

In conversation, the present simple is often used to heighten the topicality or current relevance of the original statement:

He was telling me all afternoon how he isn't guilty.

Oh, we can't go that way. Linda told me they're closing that road for repairs.

Since your example sentence is simple reported speech, then one would use past simple.

PS: Unless you have a number of friends named Peter who were just convicted of fraud, then you need a comma after "Peter."

  • Totally agree with this answer, except that I don't think Peter needs to be between commas. The lack of commas indicates that he has multiple friends, not that he has multiple friends called Peter. – Tom Mar 13 '18 at 14:30
  • It's a non-restrictive appositive followed by a non-restrictive relative clause, thus two commas, but since that wasn't part of the original question, I didn't feel the need to go into such detail. – KarlG Mar 13 '18 at 14:40
  • I actually understand it as a restrictive appositive followed by a non-restrictive relative clause. I think this is preferable to two non-restrictives, because in that case it's ambiguous whether the author has only one friend, or more than one. It could also be understood as a non-restrictive appositive followed by a restrictive relative clause (i.e. "I went to visit my friend [the one found guilty of fraud], who is called Peter"). – Tom Mar 13 '18 at 15:43
  • Now that I think about it, you're right! Just one comma for the relative. I was having so much fun thinking about jailing Peter between two commas the grammar slipped my mind. Corrected answer accordingly. – KarlG Mar 13 '18 at 15:55

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