There is an exercise in Raymond Murphy's book on reported speech. In Exercise 48.1, all the answers have been given in past form. However, at Unit 48.A, there is written that

It is not always necessary to change the verb in reported speech. If you report something and the situation hasn't changed, you do not need to change the verb to the past.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Edwin Ashworth, user067531, Scott, phenry, David Mar 19 '18 at 22:59

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  • Good question. What if the speaker doesn't know whether the situation has changed or not? My instinct tells me to use the past tense. – Tom Lee Mar 16 '18 at 10:53
  • The examples you give do not match your question. << He said to me: "The car is still being repaired." >> can be rendered in reported speech as either << He told me that the car was still being repaired. >> or << He told me that the car is still being repaired. >> The latter is appropriate if and only if the car is still being repaired when the entire sentence is uttered. Of course, people aren't omniscient so one often goes with what one assumes to be the more likely scenario, or plays safe with 'was' which doesn't demand that the repairs have been completed. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '18 at 10:56
  • Very closely related: He didn't know where New Jersey was/is. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '18 at 11:04
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    Possible duplicate of optional backshifting criterion in non reported speech – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '18 at 11:10
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    The duplicate leads to a duplicate which leads to a closed question. Perhaps a definitive answer might be welcome ? – Nigel J Mar 18 '18 at 4:22

This is interesting to me, as my opinion has always been that the tense should shift backwards to an appropriate tense (in other words, any continuous tense would still be continuous; the same applies to perfect and simple). However, a quick Google seems to yield the result that there are a few situations where one might choose not to shift tense backwards.

(The following website I have never heard of before, but is the highest hit [about 4] that covers this topic when I google 'don't always change tense in reported speech'.)

The website, English Outside the Box, states there are some scenarios where we shouldn't (or at any rate may choose not to) backshift:

1) when something was just said (around the same moment as repeating the information)

2) for scientific facts and general truths

3) for information that is still true

  • I rarely upvote answers to duplicates that have already been identified as such (quite the opposite), but this is a very good treatment. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 16 '18 at 11:33

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