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What will be the reported speech for the following sentence:

She said, "I was walking down the road when I saw the accident."

Possibility 1: She said that she had been walking down the road when she had seen the accident.

Possibility 2: She said that she had been walking down the road when she saw the accident.

Please suggest which possibility mentioned by me is the correct reported speech for the above sentence? I am in a great dilemma.

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  • You are introducing "had seen" into the report, which she did not say. Also, two 'had been' and 'had seen' is too many. Actually, why can't you use 'she was walking...when she saw'? Jan 6 '20 at 17:01
  • I agree with @Yosef Baskin. No change in tense is necessary - and I suspect it is what most native speakers would say. But if you are studying reported speech and backshift and need to prove your knowledge of it, then I'd go for possibility 2.
    – Shoe
    Jan 6 '20 at 17:04
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TLDR: either had seen and saw might be correct, depending on context.

Google books finds the following quote in Tense in English: Its Structure and Use in Discourse, by Renaat Declerck,

Consider now

(175) (a) Bill was in London when Jenny was in Paris.
          (b) I explained that Bill had been in London when Jenny was in Paris.

Examples like these show that the tense form of a direct speech when-clause is not normally backshifted in indirect speech.

The book goes on to explain that there is an exception to this — narrative when-clauses, where the when is backshifted. Is this a narrative when-clause? How do you tell them apart? The book says "Narrative when-clauses do not in fact answer the question when? It gives as example:

They said that they had been sitting in the kitchen when all of a sudden Bill had recited that poem.

So is the OP's clause a narrative when-clause? I think it depends on the context. It certainly could be viewed as answering the question "when did you see the accident," in which case it should be saw. But it also could be viewed as part of a story that the narrator is telling, in which case had seen would also work.

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http://write-site.athabascau.ca/esl/direct_indirect.php

//She said, "I was walking down the road when I saw the accident."// Here, the reporting verb 'said' is past tense. Thus, verbs in the clause to be reported should go a step further to past, to make it grammatically correct, unless the reference is to some universal phenomena. Thus, it should be: She said that she had been walking down the road, when she had seen the accident.

Yes, while speaking we may not use/ report this way, but in writing, we do.

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  • Look at this web page: "Simple Past and Past Progressive do not normally change in sentences with when / if." Jan 7 '20 at 2:12
  • @PeterShor: Tend to agree with you, but the word 'normally' in "Simple Past and Past Progressive do not normally change in sentences with when / if." (from the link), makes me think of other situations.
    – Ram Pillai
    Jan 7 '20 at 2:24
  • In the past, 'would do' became 'would have done'; 'should happen - should have happened'; would be doing = would have been doing, but it evolved over a period for simplifying and now those don't change.
    – Ram Pillai
    Jan 7 '20 at 2:26

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