In indirect speech some modal verbs usually change.

can -> could

He said "I can ride a bike" = He said that he could ride a bike

may -> might/could

He asked "May I use the bathroom?" = He asked whether he could use the bathroom

But what about dare? It can be a modal verb.

"No one dare go there" he whispered = He whispered ...

  • He whispered that no one dare to go there?
    – tac
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 22:53
  • "He whispered that no one durst go there." Unfortunately, durst is around 150 years out of date. See Ngram. The modern wording would simply be dare, as @tac suggests. Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 23:57
  • 2
    The infinitive dare by itself works: He whispered that no one dare go there. Commented Oct 5, 2023 at 17:31
  • They wouldn't dare. Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 10:39

2 Answers 2


This Collins Dictionary grammar note says that both dared or dare can be the past tense of the modal dare:

The past form needed is not used as a modal; dared is occasionally used as a modal.
The modal uses of these verbs are all negatives or questions.

Thus, when you change "'No one dare go there' he whispered," to indirect speech, both

He whispered that no one dare go there,
He whispered that no one dared go there,

are valid forms.

You can also use the non-modal verb dare, in which case you get

He whispered that no one dared to go there.

  • You don't refer to situations where you don't use backshifting because, for example, you think the situation is still true right? In other words, I can go on with the list: can->could, will->would, may->might/could, need->need, dare->dare/dared, ...
    – Kyamond
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 20:31
  • If the situation is still true, you don't need to backshift. But I didn't think that was what you were asking about. Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 21:02

Just as could is the past tense of can, dared is the past tense of dare, regardless of whether it's used as an auxiliary. This sentence quoted in the Times gives a good example:

He appealed to the sentinels of the greenroom; and these shook their heads, amidst roars of protest from the audience, and at last, with elaborate gestures, conveyed in dumb show that they dared not, could not, would not, must not venture to approach Patti again.

Dared, could, and would are all past tense. Must lacks a past tense, though, so it can't get backshifted with the others.

(My description of could and would as past-tense forms comes from Huddleston & Pullum (2002); other sources might disagree, but sentences like this illustrate the clear parallelism.)


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