Questions tagged [backshifting]

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

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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."

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. ...
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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 ...
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Why does the backshifting of tenses rule not apply here?

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 ...
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Why did you ask me if they have any allergies?

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 ...
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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) ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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” ...
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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 ...
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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?
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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."
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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.” ?
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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 [...
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"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 ...
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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 ...
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"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 ...
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2 answers
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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. ...
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4 answers
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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 ...
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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) ...
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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 ...
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1 answer
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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? ...
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Indirect speech, tense shift in clauses of second degree

I'm reading Hunger Games. Katniss and Peeta are being prepared for the Arena by special instructors. The plant instructor says: Avoid berries unless you are 100 percent sure they aren't toxic. How ...
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Using the word "if" without having to use the word "then"

Is it acceptable to use the word "if" in the following reflection as in an oblique suspicion and not have to use the word "then"? One question is: with all the money he has saved so far in not ...
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Present perfect vs. Past perfect tense used in newspaper story [closed]

I've been asking a lot about backshifting of tenses for quite some time and I have come across many articles/blogs where this so-called rule is not always followed unlike notable grammar books. For ...
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Backshift with a past continuous

Is it correct when using reported speech to say: Jan said that on the weekend she cycled and went hiking rather than Jan said that on the weekend she cycled and had gone hiking? Tks Jan
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Past continuous reporting verb in indirect speech [duplicate]

In indirect speech if the reporting verb is in past tense, then the verb in subordinate clause will also be in past tense. Ex- He said that he was going to see movie. What tense will be used in ...
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Are the tenses used in the sentence correct?

From http://dilbert.com/strip/2015-07-31: I'm going to call you Carlos from now on. And it would help if you grew a beard and walked with a limp. Shouldn't it be grow a beard and walk with a limp ...
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To tell the name of a person I met in the past

I have a basic grammar question about the past tense. If I met a guy yesterday, which tense should I use about his name today? For example, "Yesterday I met a guy, his name is/was John."
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Grammar: Did Jim ask you whether you are a virgin? VS Did Jim ask you whether you were a virgin? [duplicate]

How do I form a question based on the following details: At 1pm on Sunday Jim: Are you a virgin? Jane: Yes nothing happened from 1pm to 9pm At 9pm on Sunday: Did Jim ask you whether you were a ...
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When is "backshifting" optional?

In reported speech, tenses are generally backshifted. If what was said is still true at the time of reporting then back shifting is optional. My question is, if someone doesn't backshift the tense ...
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optional backshifting [duplicate]

I have been asking a lot about optional back shifting. I understand that if what is said is still true at the time of reporting then back shifting of tense is optional. I just have one doubt. If what ...
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I received an email saying documents are /were [duplicate]

I received an email saying that the documents are/were being processed. Which is correct? Are or were?
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2 answers
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Using Past-tense or Present-tense for verbs

I found a perfect example on the internet about what I am trying to ask. Take a look at this: "Mr. Dilger wants to see you." Mr. Bruce went on to say. "It's about the same thing. I thought I'd ...
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I have forgotten what you look/looked like [duplicate]

Which one is correct? I have forgotten what you look like. I have forgotten what you looked like. I guess I have forgotten what you looked like. because logically I saw the ...
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1 vote
2 answers
430 views

When to use the present or the past perfect tense?

A few days back, I asked a question - why in reported speech is the present perfect tense sometimes not back shifted to the past perfect tense ? For example: He said that he has painted the door. ...
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sentence structure and sequence of tense

In sentence structure of indirect speech like - (He said +........... , He informed +....... , He claimed + .......... ), I am aware that if the situation is still relevant then back shifting of ...
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