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Questions tagged [backshifting]

The changing of a present tense in direct speech to a past tense in reported speech

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What is the difference between verbs "will" and "would"? [migrated]

What is the difference between verbs "will" and "would"? I have two examples below: I am trying to talk to him, but he won't listen. I was trying to talk to him, but he wouldn't ...
Александр Скворцов's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
56 views

Do you back-shift the tense if <present perfect> + <present perfect>

Could someone clarify if the tense should be back-shifted when the main clause is present perfect. A: James has already watched the film. B: James has already emailed me about it. A+B (without ...
Yardley Y's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
119 views

Reported speech about something that is still in the future

He said (in 2015), "Driverless cars will be common by 2020." My understanding is that today (2024), we definitely backshift: He said driverless cars would be common by 2020. But what ...
user182601's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
118 views

Grammaticality of: “A movement subsequently rose demanding that the King ‘was’(??!) removed as the head of the Church of England”

I am wondering how the Subjunctive Mood functions in the past, considering this sentence: A movement subsequently rose demanding that the King was removed as the head of the Church of England. My ...
Didyougo's user avatar
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0 answers
33 views

Why do podcasters and writers do this - use of would? [duplicate]

I was listening to a true crime podcast this morning and it reminded me of several others I have heard in the past. They repetitively refer to an action that was going to happen after the point in the ...
Pami's user avatar
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2 answers
332 views

"It was time they began/had begun"

Which version is the correct indirect form of this sentence: The boss said, “It’s time we began planning our work”. 1. The boss said that it was time they began planning their work. 2. The boss said ...
Manish's user avatar
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Should I use backshift with both verbs in "Everyone thinks I am overreacting"? [duplicate]

Which one of the following clauses is better or could both be used when the original utterance is "Everyone thinks I am overreacting." "Jill said that everyone thought she was ...
noorav's user avatar
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2 votes
1 answer
441 views

Changing “You don't listen to me” to reported speech

I came across a question from an ESL paper asking students to convert direct speech to reported speech but I don't think any of the provided answers is correct. The question is as follows: Q. Jamil ...
Khalid Hussain's user avatar
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2 answers
290 views

Can "may have" be used in a past-tense narrative?

In a narrative written in third person past tense, such as you'd find in most published books, can the phrase "may have" be used after verbs like "thought" or "said"? As ...
seadeepy's user avatar
6 votes
6 answers
1k views

What tense is "He would never see her again"?

In the following passage, what tense is the second sentence? John said goodbye to his mother. He would never see her again. I know it's not the past tense, which would be "He never saw her ...
Adam Carr's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
941 views

“Still wanted” vs “still want”

In the following text, the speaker has not yet had dinner. I still wanted to get some climbing in before dinner. Does that sentence indicate the speaker still intends to go climbing, or only that ...
Jorge Barreto's user avatar
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2 answers
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Which verb tense do I use for a secondary but perpetual action mentioned in a sentence that happened in the past?

I’m trying to write a sentence in which the primary action occurred in the past, but within that sentence is another subject–verb pair in which the verb describes a perpetual state of being. Here is ...
sueanna's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
19 views

What verb form can be used after wish/hope? [duplicate]

I understand that there is a backshift occuring with "wish" - I wish you were here (now). I wish I had tried (yesterday). What if we are referencing to the future? Can there ever be "...
Matěj Vais's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
120 views

Backshifting in reported speech - thought/knew/promised

This is another question on backshifting. I looked at other such questions at ELU & ELL, it appears that the general consensus is something like 'if the reported situation still hasn't changed, it'...
ledonter's user avatar
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1 answer
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Rewriting in an indirect tone: B: "Peer pressure has its benefits as well. Our peers also motivate and inspire us to do better and work hard." [duplicate]

A: "It is difficult to fight against peer pressure." B: "Peer pressure has its benefits as well." So shouldn't this be: A said that it is difficult to fight against peer pressure. ...
ray's user avatar
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1 vote
2 answers
681 views

Can I change "was" to "had been", when expressing age?

Actually, I teach English language for 12 years, but today I got confused when I tried to report this sentence: William: 'I lived in China until I was fifteen.' William said that he had lived in ...
Mohammed Ramadhan's user avatar
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1 answer
39 views

Why does the backshifting of tenses rule not apply here? [duplicate]

Why does the backshifting of tenses rule not apply to this sentence?: "I forgot what a liar he is." Because the verb "forgot" in the main clause is past tense, shouldn't the verb ...
JJ_Doogal's user avatar
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0 answers
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Why did you ask me if they have any allergies? [duplicate]

In this sentence, the person is referring to a question that was asked in the past but a condition that is current. Can the past and present tense be used in this case or should it be "Why did ...
Angela's user avatar
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2 votes
0 answers
176 views

Why is it grammatically correct to say “It’s time she went”? [duplicate]

Consider these possibilities: It is now time for her to leave home. It is now time for her to be told. It is now time (that) she left home. It is now time (that) she were told. It is now time (that) ...
Muhammad Arslan's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
765 views

Modal verbs (must, may, would) in reported-speech backshift

Could a native English speaker please finally clear this confusion for us? The textbooks are either silent or contradicting each other. Must Direct speech: "That must be wrong!" Later she ...
deLock's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
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If he had known she had too many commitments, he would have done something about it. (Backshifting within the scope of a modally remote preterite)

If he knew she had too many commitments, he would do something about it. If he had known he had too many commitments, he would have done something about it. (This sentence is made up by myself from ...
Exp's user avatar
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4 votes
1 answer
136 views

Does "could" always mean something less likely than "can", even in backshifted subordinate clauses?

Does the could version always show more uncertainty/doubt than the can version in each of ⑴, ⑵, and ⑶? You can/could get very nasty skin diseases from bathing in dirty water. You can/could get into ...
Mr. X's user avatar
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How to interpret a reported speech

Ex 1) Direct speech: He said " We lived here for 5 years" Indirect speech : He told me that they had lived there for 5 years. Ex 2) Direct speech: He said " We have lived here for 5 ...
user394556's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
84 views

The Present (Concessive) Subjunctive (Whether/If It Be) in Past Tense Cases

Did the present, concessive subjunctive (“if it be the case”; “whether it be the case”) ever have a place in past-tense sentences? To my understanding, the subjunctive “were” and the conditionals in ...
David Marlowe's user avatar
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0 answers
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Grammar: “Thought” [duplicate]

I saw this sentence in a composition and I don’t know whether it is grammatically correct: He is so cute, I thought. Firstly, since the whole composition is in past tense, is it correct to use “is” ...
J Muzhen's user avatar
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0 answers
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Use of 'would' for evidentiality in American English

In American English, "would" is used more often than in British English. It seems that one reason is using 'would' for evidential use in American English. especially for indirect ...
Houman's user avatar
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2 answers
15k views

Would not be able to versus will not be able to

Linda phoned and explained that she would not be able to come to the party the next day because she was still sick. Why do we use would not instead of will not?
Michael's user avatar
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3 votes
2 answers
607 views

Problem with backshift (past simple to past perfect)

Last week in an EFL class I told students that when reporting a speech they should "backshift" the main verb, exception made when the statement is a general truth or it is still valid. In their ...
Michele's user avatar
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0 answers
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Specified time in the Past in the Reported Speech [duplicate]

I am learning Reported Speech in the Past now. In my English textbook there is a rule: "When it is provided when exactly the action happened, you can leave the Past Simple as it is". I was ...
eugene's user avatar
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1 answer
60 views

Persisting tense backshifting in the "i'd rather" hypothetical

Today I was discussing something with my boss and I said the following sentence: I'd rather we experimented with things we haven't tried yet I said that as a response to an idea of reusing an old ...
user1255410's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
875 views

I'd appreciate it if + <past tense> + until + <present or past tense?>

These three examples have the same construction of I'd appreciate it if you + past tense verb + ... + until + subject + present or past tense verb... The first one has the present tense verb ...
JK2's user avatar
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-1 votes
1 answer
2k views

Which is the correct tense: "earth was/is round"? [duplicate]

Maybe it's very simple but I'm wondering which one is correct. Google search has showed me both forms are used. "He said the earth was round." "He said the earth is round."
Dennis's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
277 views

Difference in meaning between: “his son will return” and “his son would return” [duplicate]

The hope is that his son will/would return. What’s the difference in meaning of the sentence when will and would are used one at a time? Should we use only would inasmuch as hope is only ...
ramteja guthikonda's user avatar
3 votes
3 answers
329 views

What type of if-conditional is: “A shop offered us a reduction if we paid in cash.”?

What type of if-conditional is this sentence? A shop offered us a reduction if we paid in cash. As far as I know, the only right conditional sentences are these four: Zero Conditional: A shop offer ...
Sagid's user avatar
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1 vote
2 answers
138 views

What is the Holocaust, or what was the Holocaust?

I am writing a piece of history coursework about the Holocaust. One of the section titles is What is the Holocaust, or What was the Holocaust? Could somebody please confirm which of these two is ...
Edith Annabel 's user avatar
1 vote
0 answers
150 views

Is this an example of indirect speech?

I wrote: School starts in August next year? I thought it started in September. I proposed that this is one good example of how grammar can confuse people because a preterite (started) is used to ...
Jim Reynolds's user avatar
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2 votes
3 answers
2k views

Which tense is correct? "Bob wanted to know if he is/was a father"

Bob wants to know if he is a father or not. A day later, Bob learns that he's a father. Then three years pass. Now which of the following is correct and why? Three years ago, Bob wanted to ...
High's user avatar
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1 vote
1 answer
196 views

Why isn't it "had handed" in "the girl alleged that her mother handed her over"? [closed]

In the following reported speech: The girl alleged that her mother handed her over to a pimp and was taking Rs 40,000 from him every month. — Times of India Newspaper, 1st May 2018 Why is it ...
TheMdsami33's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
8k views

Reported speech with “never”, which one is correct? [closed]

Direct speech: “I never lose my books”. Which one is correct in Indirect speech: “He said he never lost his books.” or “He said he never loses his books.” ?
Tati's user avatar
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1 vote
3 answers
209 views

Verb tense for anticipated future in the context of now-discarded hypothetical past

Further to discussion regarding this ELL answer... I [had] assumed I would go to Heaven when I die/died, but when I think about all the wicked things I've done, I'm now pretty sure I'll go to Hell [...
FumbleFingers's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
141 views

"Backshifting" in English [duplicate]

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 ...
user282192's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
2k views

Modal verbs in reporting

'Advanced Grammar In Use' (AGU) by Martin Hewings, UNIT 37 C, says: The verbs could, would, should, might, needn't, ought to, used to, and could have, should have, etc. don't change in the report: 'I ...
JK2's user avatar
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3 votes
1 answer
2k views

"How could I" and "how could I have" in rhetorical questions

I have a question about using could and could have in rhetorical questions. I was watching a video where a very old man who was talking to a priest about his childhood asked the priest, “How could I ...
Nostradamus's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
265 views

Conditional clause

Yo, is this sentence correct? It's hard to find a guide that speaks directly to this use of the subjunctive: I realized that this issue needed more active contemplation, were I to find any closure. ...
puntifex's user avatar
1 vote
4 answers
423 views

What’s the right inflection for the bracketed verb in “He asked what time the train [was/will/be] leaving”? [duplicate]

I was conducting a language assessment test when I was asked to fill out a clause: He asked what time the train [ was / will / be] leaving. I would have chosen be to form a subjunctive clause, had ...
Remy Jurriens's user avatar
1 vote
1 answer
2k views

Should go/will go/will be going?

This question was in a test so please choose one of the answers given in the question. The coach said that they _________ to the gym every day next week to get in shape for the tournament game. 1) ...
Ithilel's user avatar
  • 402
0 votes
2 answers
18k views

So that I can vs So that I may [duplicate]

In the cases below, do I always have to use 'may' instead of 'can'? Both sound correct to me however, I had read explanations that said that 'may' should be used after 'so that'. I came earlier so ...
Rebecca Viaro Piassa's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
239 views

Indirect Speech - Tense Shifting [duplicate]

In this quoted example, is it okay to shift verb tenses mid-sentence? Background: The narration is written in present tense. The narrator is referencing something that was said in the past, but the ...
user avatar
1 vote
2 answers
797 views

Tense simplification in subordinate clauses - past perfect instead of would have

in Michael Swan's "Practical English Usage" he states in entry 580.6 ("past instead of would ..."): "would, like will, is avoided in subordinate clauses; instead, we generally use past verbs". He also ...
user avatar
0 votes
2 answers
503 views

Tenses - Reported speech WITHIN a conditional clause

If we would like to express a conditional statement about a present fact as in "Can you go outside today? - I don't know yet, I need my parents' approval first" Are these sentences correct? ...
Jamesr's user avatar
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