Questions tagged [backshifting]

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

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18
votes
7answers
3k views

“He didn't know where New Jersey was”

I know the past tense carries the past tense in every dependent clause, but referring specifically to places or to things that are eternal, like the Earth, seems a bit weird and therefore we sometimes ...
8
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0answers
7k views

Past tense or present tense to describe something that 'happened in the past' but is still true? [duplicate]

For example: "Last week, I found out that NASA stands for 'National Aeronautics and Space Administration.'" or "Last week, I found out that NASA stood for 'National Aeronautics and Space ...
12
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8answers
25k views

“I didn't know you liked her” or “I didn't know you like her”

I have a friend who insists that "I didn't know you like her" is more correct than "I didn't know you liked her" if the liking is still taking place. But to my ear, only the latter sounds ...
7
votes
2answers
5k views

Using past tense when referencing a still-true fact [duplicate]

In the sentence: "I didn't know she had a son," Can I say "I didn't know she has a son" instead, because he is a teenager now? Or are both correct?
3
votes
5answers
4k views

Do tenses in a time clause never back-shift in reported speech?

Do tenses in a time clause never back-shift in reported speech? For example, does "I went to Italy when I finished school." become She said she had gone to Spain when she finished school. ...
8
votes
4answers
1k views

Problem with backshift in reporting clauses

This is the subject that's been bugging me for quite some time now, even though I believe I've managed to grasp the entire reported speech pretty well. If I want to repeat to someone what I ...
2
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3answers
553 views

present perfect vs past perfect [closed]

What's the difference between the following examples: I noticed that the clock had stopped. I noticed that the clock has stopped. Some of them say that if the emphasis is laid on the ...
1
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2answers
360 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. ...
11
votes
3answers
4k views

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."
4
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3answers
4k views

If I were him, I would doubt if she (is/was/were?) serious about this relationship

Which one is correct? If I were him, I would doubt if she is serious about this relationship. If I were him, I would doubt if she was serious about this relationship. If I were him, I would doubt if ...
0
votes
1answer
1k views

I asked + present/past tense

Consider the examples: "My name is Ricky." He said his name is Ricky. The tense is not backshifted in #2 because his name is and will always be Ricky. Also consider: Ricky says: "I live in Paris." ...
0
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2answers
892 views

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 ...
6
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3answers
1k views

Is the concept of “backshifted past tense” in reported speech applicable to other types of subordinate clauses?

BACKGROUND Cambridge Grammar of the English Language has this portion regarding backshift on page 154: Backsift not confined to indirect reported speech We introduced a concept of a ...
2
votes
1answer
2k views

Past-tense verb + that clause: clause has to use past tense?

I am writing a subordinate clause in the "Related Work" section of my academic paper. Which is correct? In [1], Smith et al. pointed out that the solution is feasible. OR In [1], Smith et al. ...
2
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2answers
4k views

Should I use present tense in reporting speech?

Should I use present tense in reported speech? I have both sentences and not sure which one is correct: (1) Peter mentioned that the formula A is based on formula B. (2) Peter mentioned that the ...
7
votes
1answer
4k views

What is “backshifting”, as applied to English grammar?

I saw this term, backshifting, in an answer to another question, that was not endorsed by the community: [T]he process called backshifting...signal[s] that the speech is not direct/quoted but ...
5
votes
3answers
877 views

Reported speech: unnecessary past tense?

The following is an excerpt from a textbook in Korea. I'm wondering if this is an unnecessary past tense for the reported speech--or possibly wrong. When I moved to Korea, one of the first things ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

Optional tense back shifting [duplicate]

While changing direct to indirect speech, we generally back shift the tense. Example - "I have finished my work." (Direct speech) He said that he had finished his work. (Indirect speech)...
1
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2answers
6k 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 ...
1
vote
1answer
489 views

sequence of tenses (optional and obligatory back shifting )

Consider a sentence: 1) The president learned that the earthquake has caused havoc all across the country. Here present perfect tense is used. First tell me is it correct to use 'has caused' ? I ...
4
votes
2answers
541 views

What would be the difference between past and present tense here?

1.) I assumed you were the type who kept your promises. vs. 2.) I assumed you were the type who keeps your promises.
8
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4answers
1k views

Present tense and conditional tense in a stated past tense

I have a question about using past and conditional tenses in a context that refers to something told in the past. I think I’ve seen both forms used in films/books, etc., but I'm not sure about it ...
3
votes
3answers
2k views

Reported Speech with was and were

I set a test with the following direct sentence, which the students were supposed to put into reported speech: Interviewer: "Are you fluent in English?" I expected the students to write: The ...
3
votes
5answers
40k views

“While” followed by simple past/past continuous

I'm currently reading "Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue" by Hugh Howey. Here's a short passage with my problem zone and the subsequent question: ...Well, I'm going to go do more Officser sstuff," ...
2
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1answer
127 views

Use of IS and WAS in reported speech [duplicate]

Which one is more correct: Melissa said she was going to the mall. or Melissa said she is going to the mall.
2
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4answers
2k views

Reported speech - questions

In the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language; Huddleston and Pullum 2002, they make the following qualifying comment: ... reported speech covers the reporting of spoken and written text but ...
2
votes
4answers
715 views

Why “can” not “could” in “She was one of those people who can. . . .”?

The following sentence is from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, occurring in chapter 5 of part 2: She was one of those people who can go to sleep at any hour and in any position. Why is who ...
1
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0answers
46 views

I thought…WAS vs. I thought …IS? [duplicate]

I read this phrase: "I thought your essay about Internet WAS very accurate" I wonder why the past tense is used in here! Doesn't it have to be: "I thought your essay about Internet IS very accurate"? ...
1
vote
2answers
620 views

Is the tense change of the verb “need” to “needed” mandatory?

If the tense change of the verb "need" to "needed" is not mandatory, then if it was changed then how would it affect the meaning in the sentences below? If they asked for help, I would provide ...
1
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3answers
296 views

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 ...
0
votes
2answers
392 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? ...
-1
votes
1answer
394 views

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 ...