Questions tagged [backshifting]

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

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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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19 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 ...
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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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46 views

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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2answers
163 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?
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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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2answers
2k views

Couldn't have been more wrong vs Couldn't be more wrong

Is there a difference between 'I couldn't have been more wrongˇ and 'I couldn't be more wrong' if used after a sentence like 'I thought he would appreciate the gesture'?
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35 views

Second conditional sentence

Consider this following sentence: a) "I will go wherever you go." Sometimes out of politeness or based on some conditions we convert the above sentence to the following second conditional: b) "I ...
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1answer
37 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 ...
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1answer
207 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 ...
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1answer
512 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."
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1answer
157 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 ...
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3answers
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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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2answers
124 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 ...
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109 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 ...
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3answers
585 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 ...
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1answer
161 views

Why isn't it “had handed” in “the girl alleged that her mother handed her over”?

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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1answer
3k 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.” ?
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140 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 [...
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1answer
86 views

“Backshifting” in English

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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2answers
1k 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 ...
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1answer
1k 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 ...
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2answers
220 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. ...
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4answers
332 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 ...
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1answer
1k 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) ...
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2answers
12k 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 ...
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1answer
192 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 ...
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2answers
537 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 ...
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2answers
436 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? ...
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3answers
529 views

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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1answer
263 views

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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1answer
979 views

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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1answer
129 views

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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1answer
3k views

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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5answers
332 views

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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3answers
6k 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."
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3answers
339 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 ...
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2answers
1k 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 ...
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42 views

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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2answers
4k views

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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2answers
1k views

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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1answer
6k views

I have forgotten what you look/looked like

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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2answers
395 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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1answer
480 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 ...
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1answer
579 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 ...
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3answers
594 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 subordinate ...
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1answer
15k views

Reported speech in news articles [duplicate]

In reported speech we generally back shift the tense. But why in news articles do I often see that this guideline is violated? For ...
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2answers
407 views

It was unclear that she has/had painted the door

The grammar rule says that if the verb in the main clause is in the past tense then the verbs in the subordinate clauses will also be in the corresponding past tense. According to the grammar rule ...
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1answer
2k 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." ...
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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)...